Comfort zones

Monday, January 21, 2008

I arrived in New York City shortly after the Iowa caucuses to find all of my friends inquiring about them. They thought we were the only state to have such a weird system where we shuffle around a room, trying to muster up support for someone.

I honestly did not think we were the only state to do such a thing, but I still have yet to get around to googling if we are or not.

Regardless, everyone was curious and asked me for details. They were astounded with what they saw on television and asked if it was seriously like that. They thought it was funny how they saw a farmer yelling at his neighbor who was standing for a different candidate, and pointing out his candidate would do much better for America than the one his neighbor had chosen. I confirmed it really was like that.

It started making me think about how connected we are to one another in Iowa. I know there is the old idea that of course we would know everyone when we come from towns of a few hundred to a few thousand people. But when I tried to apply that to NYC, I found a large difference, which was more than sheer population mind you.

I spent a few days living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This part of the borough is known for the young, artsy Hipsters that live there. I always find it humorous being on certain trains specific to certain areas. You can always tell the neighborhood you are heading to by who is on the train. I am currently residing on the Upper East Side, and it was quite a change coming up here from Brooklyn. I had just come from being surrounded by all of these artsy people, with the skin tight jeans, odd hats, tights and an assortment of other interesting clothing. I got off the subway and found myself surrounded by Yuppies.

While it is arguable that Yuppies are contained to the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side is full of older, rich women, I would disagree and say there is a good spread of both. Although maybe I'm confused and applying Yuppies to trust fund babies. Either way, it took a little adjustment going from a socially lower class to a much, much higher class.

The adjustment is relatively fast though, and I think I have come to a conclusion as to why that is. Public transportation. People are squished into a tiny island no bigger than 10 x 2 miles (yes, Manhattan really is that small), and if that isn't enough, they are scrunched into small subway cars where they sometimes stand nose-to-nose and get to stare at each other for a good 5-10 minutes. Peoples' coexistence here depends on being able to get along because of the constant interaction they have with each other.

Sure, they may be trying to keep themselves separated to their own groups by where they live, but they have to have some comfort zone, don't they? What about our comfort zones? Are we too far into them?

I think one of the biggest things we lack in Iowa is that constant, forced interaction. Everyone drives around in their cars, staying completely enclosed from outside factors. And with technology booming the way it is today, we'll soon have no need to leave the house. We have such control over who we do and do not interact with that it halts progress. Maybe we have such a hard time accepting others and their differences because we aren't forced to be around them.

So challenge yourself to embrace merely what is around you. Storm Lake is a town with amazing opportunities for people to grow. There are so many cultures in the town that you can usually only find in large cities. And the best way to start doing that? Go for a walk!

* Tyler, a graduate of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, is a new member of the Pilot-Tribune news staff.