Tuesday, August 26, 2014

noticing the normal part 1

See, the thing is, there just ARE more people in your line of vision. Everywhere. More people. Because Europe builds up, not out. People here walk or ride public transportation. Lots of cars too, more every day, but still, bursting at the seams public transport. You see people. All kinds of people, every day. You see people eating and drinking while walking. You see people of all ages and sizes and races and genders (well, just the two really) licking ice cream cones.

This always makes me chuckle. Guys with shaved heads, muscle shirts, iphone to ear, licking an ice cream cone and walking to the bus stop. Imagine it for a second. There is no cool way to eat an ice cream. It's chuckle worthy.

What this means is that you are seeing people living. Not just people "at the store", or "at the mall," or "at the work place,"...but people in the middle of living their lives.

You see a lot. You hear a lot. You smell a lot. Some of it not so pleasant. Some of it not very pretty. All of it VERY human.

I once saw two men who had clearly just been fighting, drunk, make-up their fight for well over 30 minutes. Talking, hugging, and explaining. One of them was wearing nothing but boxer shorts.

 You see many more people with physical and mental disabilities. People with facial or physical dis-figuration. People who have clearly lived very hard lives, care worn and tired.  You see a lot of elderly people.  A lot of elderly people. Everywhere.

If you visit here you aren't going to notice these things as more than just quirks. You see people rifling through trash cans or men drinking on a bench at 10:30am on a Sunday morning and you are a little shocked but in that "oh, look at Europe" kind of way. You see  people who walk funny or look a little weather beaten and assume they must be poor. Or you simply don't see them at all because you're busy looking up at the pretty buildings or booking it to the recommended restaurant or your face is behind the camera. Because you're visiting, and that's what you came for. The fancy European stuff.

What happens when you live here is a bit different.

You start to notice all these people living, and then you notice the grungy stuff, and the not so pretty stuff. The broken stuff. Because now you live here and instead of noticing the pretty buildings, you start to notice the trash can rifling, and the drunken stumbling, and the graffiti. Except its not quirky, or other worldy...it's home.

And then it seems as if that's all there is to see. Because you start to really notice it. Because it stands out. It's not "normal." Because after a while, after taking your face away from the camera and looking around, you start to look for the normal. The moms with strollers and dads with kids on shoulders. The ladies out for a coffee together and friends sharing a soda. At first you can't see it. You can't see the normal because there is so much "other." So. much. OTHER. So much that is not clean and neat and fits into, well, into a neat and clean store or restaurant or place of business...where you're used to encountering other people.

It's not cleaned up ship shape for public viewing. It's not polished. It's not predictable.

There are so many reactions I have had to this reality. Sometimes it's disgust. Warranted disgust. For some things are not appropriate or tolerable anywhere. Sometimes it's fatigue. Just tiring of trying to navigate the good, the bad, and the ugly, take in the good, pray for the bad, and hope the ugly goes out of style. But more often than that I have found myself just looking on (or away) with curiosity. It's not every day that you see a man riding a bike with nothing on but mesh underwear. Very intriguing.

Martin says that it's easy to not notice the normal, because when surrounded by so many people on a daily basis, every time you step out of the house, the not normal stands out. In a crowd of people you aren't going to notice all the regular people doing regular things like sitting and looking out the window on the tram, you're going to notice the girl who's brushing her teeth and texting at the same time (true story) standing directly in front of you.

No, you have to look for it. You have to make an effort to notice it, instead of the other. To refocus your eyes...


  1. Austin have to be really calm place... :)

    1. Haha! It is, generally. In Texas people have to drive where they are going so you never see people out and about. If you visited you would think the neighborhoods were all abandoned int he middle of the day. No one is out.

    2. I was in States only in big cities, San Francisco, Seatle, LA - I was shocked how many homeless people there are. How crowded are those cities. So - maybe grass is always greener somwhere else. :D

      BTW: I was trying to visit you couple times during last weeks but ALWAYS there was some big truck on the road nearby your house, so I couldn't drive in. :D That was just riddiculous. :D ;) They doing this on purpose. ;)

  2. though interesting perspective, I don't have much to say about this particular post. I just wanted to drop by and say that I enjoy reading your blog even if I don't comment very often.

    1. Thank you for saying that. I read yours as well! Waiting for your babies to arrive... ;)

  3. Major metropolitan cities in the US are pretty "not normal" if normal is life in the suburbs or outer urban regions. Lots of homeless, drunken, elderly, disabled - physical and mental, corner pees, stinky trains, rich, poor rubbing elbows in Manhattan. New York City was most like this in my experience there for a year. Chicago downtown and even in Hyde Park to some degree were very diverse. I've found that riding public transportation puts you in the thick of diversity, for better and worse, even in Dallas. Suburbs and gated communities definitely present a sterile universe. Going downtown is good for children and adults alike, I am finding. This exposes them, as you're finding in you neighborhood (?, is it within walking distance?), to all of the uncomfortable realities of life which are important to see and experience. It's easy to talk about loving your neighbor and people who are different than you. There are some things no one should have to see though. Despite everything I've seen in Europe, NYC, and Chicago, though, the worst I've ever seen was through a window into the private office of a respected hotel in Irving, Tx while we were taking a leisurely stroll along the canal. Hard to miss. Disgusting.

    1. Yes, I failed to add that I am comparing all of this to simply living each day in my own neighborhood in Austin. Also, Austin's downtown is waaaaaaay more tame than Dallas. SO even there, you rarely see things out of the ordinary. I think it's important for kids to see it all as well. Here, there is no real retreat from it, or "safe place" is you are trying to avoid certain activities so I guess that's been the biggest shocker for me.