September 22, 2008

The quiet art of survival


Sometimes it seems that things change on a daily basis. Yet most of the time the twists and turns of everyday life are so subtle they escape your notice. Over the last few years there has been a change taking place in the area that I work in near Atlanta. It all began with a new subdivision going in down the street. I passed the place while it was undergoing construction for months and watched as the houses flew up in typical cookie cutter fashion, just a few yards from each other. The place was huge, the developers chose to lay complete waste to the landscape, removing all living things so the construction crews would have an easier time getting to each site.

A year or so after the behemoth was started people began moving in. Several months went by... The ups driver was doing his daily pick up when he commented that he was running late and needed to quickly finish his route in the subdivision because he wouldn't go there after dark. I looked at him in a puzzled fashion and asked why, the place seemed calm enough when I passed it each day... he told me that the nice houses were all toward the main road, but when you got down into the community they became smaller and less ornate. "Down by the pool is the worst." "Sleazy looking guys hang around there all the time, we've had two trucks get ripped off this month in there"

I was surprised. That afternoon when everyone was back in the shop we started talking about what the guy had told me. They all quickly agreed and told me that there had been a marked increase in crime in the area, due to the scummy people that were moving in all over. One of the guys is in good with the local police department and he began talking about how the developers of the subdivision got to the point where they couldn't sell anymore of the homes, so they sold out to HUD. Then the government came in handing out guaranteed loans with all sorts of great benefits, and the remaining houses were snapped up quick. He said that the police were in there almost everyday now. Indeed they ran over to the computer and went to the scanner site for cops, and we listened only for a few minutes and heard all sorts shenanigans going on, all around us. We were all stunned to say the least. Within the span of thirty minutes we heard about a chase taking place, on foot involving three units in an apartment complex, an ongoing home invasion investigation, a call for a rape unit to be dispatched (we didn't know there was such a thing), an active arson , and a shooting call come in. All of this was less than two miles from where we were in different directions.

From that day on I began to look at the surroundings as I drove through on my commute. I thought about the quiet nature of this place when I first started working there. I noticed that all the gas stations had gone to pre-pay, that there was an inordinate amount of garbage on the sides of the roads, that the foot traffic was at least ten times what is was just a few years ago, and everyone seemed just to be walking back and forth from their homes to the convenience stores. I had been buying gas at a local store closer to home for a long time, so I stopped in at a place I used to frequent for gas all the time to get a peach slushy... the place is well known for them. There was a woman I used to deal with behind the counter and I asked her why the gas was all pre-pay now and she said, "Because everybody drives off without paying now". I began to notice that the once happy, relaxed woman now looked old and haggard.

I stopped eating lunch around there a couple of years ago and go only to the book keeper and the bank, both just a couple of miles from the office. The other day I had to go to the other side of town to meet a customer and was surprised by the state of everything I saw. Dirty parking lots, worn dirt paths on the sides of the roads with fat women walking, tugging multiple children along behind them, all the kids had on pants that said "juicy" across the ass..... Some of the places we used to eat lunch at even had bars on the windows...

The local folks all blame it on the development of the mall that moved in a few years ago, "Once the mall got here and everybody got tired of going there things just started going down hill". I thought about the mall next to the place my wife works and how when I was in school it was a favored weekend destination for movies, video games, records, and girl watching. My wife won't even go in there now, she's too afraid of getting mugged, and she grew up in Chicago! The theaters around it are gone now, as most businesses are as well, they were replaced by adult video chains, check cashing stands, liquor stores, and churches... an odd mix to be sure.

Two things made me think of this tonight when I got home, one - I noticed all the speed limit signs within a couple miles of here have been spray painted on, something I've never noticed before, and two - the type of things I pulled out of my pocket to lay on the entertainment center... It was so damn subtle, I never even noticed it until I forced myself to pay attention....

3 comments:

The Angry Georgian said...

Such is the case with Gwinnett Place Mall. When I moved here in '96, it was the place to go. Since they started running public transportation (the buses) to it, it's gone downhill exactly as you just described. We won't even go there anymore.

Pelmo said...

You describe it perfectly as I watched this occur in many neighborhoods in Chicago.

Eve said...

Bummer. It's sad that respect for property, others enjoyment, even life just isn't important in some areas. It really seems like survival of the fittest, in a morbid way.