For some reason, I assumed all east coast cities would look something like New York. I expected our train ride away from the city to be a serene meander through valleys and sun-kissed hills. Instead, I returned to my seat with a sandwich, only to witness some of the most devastating towns I could’ve imagined.
Some were rough, but some looked downright war-torn. I passed more than one house with an exterior wall completely collapsed, exposing the inside, littered with trash and tarps. I munched on my ten-dollar turkey sandwich in awe as I watched how deeply the recession cut into these communities. Of course, I knew there were towns like this in America, but I didn’t know how prevalent they are. In my luxurious nest of trees, mist, and mountains, I had a hard time believing a recession of this severity had even really happened. At times I had even thought, “people are just complaining because money’s a bit tight right now”, with no knowledge of the hurricane-like forces that literally tore some of these towns to shreds. Municipal services vanished, jobs disappeared, whole communities came to a halt– leaving behind a wake of thousands in need.
As I rode the massive escalator out of the station, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being “chosen” by the claw from Toy Story. I immediately noticed something different once I finally emerged. After being in New York for a week, I had gotten rather used to the streets, mysterious liquids, and smells. After a pensive train ride, coming out of the subway station was like coming out of a movie theater, except instead of being surrounded by blinding light, I was surrounded by…nothing. No trash in the streets, the sidewalks are very wide, and there’s tons of places to park. There seemed to be an abundance of air– and I wasn’t taken aback by any “exotic” smells. There were no tour guides to lean in toward me and offer drugs, nor did I get brushed by every stranger on the walkway– a stark and instantly noticeable difference.
I felt culture shocked, like I’d been dunked in boiling water only to be dropped into a bath of ice.