Since the city of Detroit has been in the news for its bankruptcy, I've spent the week sharing some amusing stories from when I lived there from mid-1997 to mid-1998. Two wrap up this topic, today I'm going to give you whatever other funny Detroit experiences that I couldn't fit into the previous posts. Let's get started.
The Detroit Rep
People half-jokingly asked "why???" when I said I was moving from Tampa to Detroit. Part of that was because of the dramatic change in weather, but some of it had to do with the reputation Detroit had as being a depressed, crime-ridden city. Well, I'll tell you this based on my year there. It was a much better place than the rest of the country thought. Yes, it was sad to see so many abandoned buildings in the heart of the city. But there were also some very nice areas too. Many of the lifelong Detroiters whom I worked with took a lot of pride in showing that the city was moving in the right direction. But unfortunately, things seem to have declined since then; the population has dropped, and now the city is bankrupt.
I'm a Florida native, so you can call me a Floridian. I live in Texas, so you can call me a Texan. But what do you call people who live in Michigan? When I was up there, I always thought it sounded odd, but they call themselves Michiganders. Every time I heard that term I wanted to say, "What's good for the Michigoose is good for the Michigander."
|Stand your ground! (Courtesy: Wikipedia)|
Anyway, people warned me that these birds can be very aggressive. So whenever I was walking along the trails in the complex and some geese were in the sidewalk ahead, I'd cross the street and go around them. Talk about standing your ground! The Canada geese also were prolific poopers. The bigger the bird, the bigger the -- well, you know.
Even though these geese were huge and tough, they weren't too bright. I remember sometimes seeing a few them standing around behind my building when it was snowing. I'd go back and look again an hour later, and the geese were standing in the exact same spot, and the snow was starting to accumulate on their backs. Find some shelter you fools!
A Detroit Confession
I just mentioned above that my apartment complex was in suburban Detroit. So I guess I have a little confession to make. After spending all week writing about my experience living and working in Detroit, I should disclose that I neither lived nor worked in the city itself. My home was in Farmington Hills, and my employer was in Southfield.
On the Border
Quick geography question for you. True or false: If you drive south from Detroit, you'll wind up in Canada. True! You can see on the map that the city of Windsor, Ontario is south of Detroit.
I thought it was pretty fun living near the Canadian border. The cities of Detroit and Windsor hosted a really neat joint Independence Day festival on July 4th weekend. As an introvert, festivals usually make me cringe. But this one was cool. Despite the Detroit reputation, I thought the shores of the Detroit River on both sides of the border were very pretty.
Funny thing about the border though: Even though I had nothing to hide, I was always very nervous crossing over. Usually whichever way I was crossing, the border guards would just ask for the purpose of my trip, and it was a very quick encounter. But I was always worried that one day they'd ask something more complicated. It's not like I was smuggling a trunk full of Beanie Babies over the border (which apparently was a big problem back then).
An Introvert's Guide to Surviving Winter
For the year that I was in Detroit, I didn't do too much other than go to work and then come home. Part of that was due to my introverted nature, and some of it had to to with the fact that I was a Florida native going through my first real winter as an adult. The winter weather was definitely a disincentive for doing anything. But I ended up joining a gym and going pretty much every day before work. By the time spring came, some of my coworkers thought I was sick because my pants were so loose.
I had an amusing gym routine during the winter. I'm not a fan of communal showers and locker rooms, so I always showed up at the gym dressed to workout and then came home immediately after working out to shower. But in the coldest, snowiest times of the winter, I didn't bother to wear a winter coat to the gym (but did keep in the car for emergencies). Why bother wearing a winter coat into the gym when I would just end up hanging it up and then not wanting to put it back on when I was all sweaty? So I would park my car, run though the parking lot in the bitter cold weather wearing just shorts and a T-shirt, and then run back to my car after working out.
When I got to Detroit, I immediately noticed that the two daily newspapers, The Detroit Free-Press and The Detroit News, seemed very weak for such a big metropolitan area. I soon learned that there was a bitter and violent newspaper union strike a couple of years earlier, and things were still ugly. On my daily drive to work, I passed by many houses that had signs in the yard disparaging the names of the two newspapers and urging people not to read them. There were also many incidents where people would destroy newspaper vending machines in the middle of the night. I guess things never got much better because I recall reading a few years ago that both papers only publish print editions a couple of days a week. (Although, I wouldn't mind that. I would rather read the electronic edition of anything rather than a hard copy.)
Don't Spend It All in One Place
Michigan was the only state I lived in that had a state income tax. So I dutifully filed my return in early 1998 and received an amusingly small refund. I don't remember the exact amount, but I was something like $1.53, or maybe 53-cents. I remember laughing when the check came in the mail. It probably cost the state more than the refund amount to print and mail the check. Maybe I should have let them keep it!
Get Out of My Way
There's a street called 8 Mile Road that's on the border between Detroit and its northern suburbs. This street had a horrible reputation as a hate-filled dividing line. While I was up there, some official from one of the suburbs (maybe a police chief or a mayor) took a lot of heat for saying that he wanted to, "Push the criminals south of 8 Mile Road" back intro Detroit. Anyway, one of the newspapers or TV stations had a fun little contest asking for people to suggest a new name for 8 Mile Road, thinking that perhaps changing the name would change the divisiveness.
Some suggestions were overly happy, such as Unity Way or Prosperity Drive. But I read one funny road rage-induced suggestion that the name of the street should be, Get Out of My Way.
Despite what the warning labels say, if you're gassing up your car and it's freezing outside, you'd get back in your car until your tank was full, right? Well, that wasn't possible when I lived in Michigan. There was some sort of law or ordinance that banned the little clips on gas pumps that would allow you to let go of the pump. I don't know if that's still the case up there, but it was weird to have to stand there and hold the lever down the whole time while pumping has. I also remember how exciting it was when the price of gas was 99-cents per gallon for some of the time that I lived there.
On one hungry night in Detroit, I had an experience similar to what happened with Larry The Cucumber in the VeggieTales video Pizza Angel:
I had gotten home from work around 11:45 p.m. and was starving. The pizza delivery place nearby closed at midnight. So I quickly called and got my order in. Delivery was always very fast so I figured I'd be chowing down in no time.
But slowly and sadly, the minutes ticked away. By 12:45 a.m., I called to check on my order. Someone answered the phone with a curt, "Sorry we're closed." I asked about my order, and he said the delivery guy was on the way. Around 1:15 a.m., I called again. The manager got on the phone and said the delivery guy was in a car accident (but wasn't injured), so the boss himself was making me a new pizza and would deliver it. Sure enough, the manager rang my doorbell around 1:45 a.m. with my order. He didn't charge me for it, but I felt bad and gave him a good tip.
This concludes 7 Posts for 7 Days. I look forward to not blogging for the next few days.