Slummin It

While I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, I’m still not sure how to put it into words.  I’m still unsure of how to convey to you the immense poverty, hurt, and hopelessness I see and feel every morning that I ride into Baltimore City on the light rail (public transit), transporting me from the green and perfectly maintained streets of suburbia into some of the grungiest parts of Baltimore City, where I have been enlightened.

Windows boarded up, addicts hunched over with their eyes half open, slobbering on the street, a hooker (or what I imagine she was) leaning on the corner of a building smoking a cigarrete.  The light rail station where I depart is Lexington Market and I am always surprised by the number of people mulling around this stop at 930 AM.  Lexington Market is actually a massive warehouse filled with kiosks serving seafood, deli meats, nuts, cakes, pastries, buffalo wings, fried chicken, sodas and beers, and more seafood and fried chicken.  When I stepped inside on my first day home I felt like I had been transported back to early America in the 1900’s.  What I imagine this market might have looked like without a roof and so many walls.  But it’s hardly glamourous.  Long lines spill out of the entrance for what I assumed was a popular kiosk.  My boss later informed me that these lines were called “testers.”  At the front of the line stands a drug dealer who passes out samples of his products for free, hoping to hook the desperate addicts in an attempt to gain more business.

How niave I am.  The truth is it’s hard for me to feel comfortable during my commute for work.  I’m never sure if the loud man next to me is starting up a conversation about the weather simply because he wants to talk, or because he specifically wants to talk to me.  One morning a man on the street who I assume was high off something leaned over and asked me to marry him.  In my sundresses and heels I feel very out of place because I am.  This neighborhood is predominantly African American and really run down.  On one block you’ll find the Hippodrome and a Starbucks, and on the next you’ll find “Blue City Urban Shop” “KFC” and a “7-11”.  This area is essentially a food dessert serving only processed foods, snacks, take-out, and fast food.  And while the “World Famous” Lexington Market does sell produce, I have rarely seen a family walking out with bags of apples and vegetables.

While I know that my commute alone has been a eye-opening experience this summer, I feel helpless.  These people look at me and I’m sure they are judging me.  Probably thinking that I’m using the light rail to “go green”, not because I don’t want to pay for daily parking.  Men and women in wheel chairs missing arms, legs, and eye patches.  People falling over in their light rail seats…not because they are tired.

But everyday is a little rush because I don’t know what characters I’m going to see. I irrationally clutch my purse and work bag to my body because I don’t know what people are thinking when they bump into me or eye me. Its a bit of an adventure that I didn’t really ask for.  But here I am.  Slummin it on the corner of Fayette and Howard.

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