I know there are people out there who love the feel of living in a city. They love the pulse and rhythm of the urban environment, they enjoy all the wonderful cultural benefits that a city provides, and they just thrive in being a part of that tapestry of humanity.
I am diametrically opposed to those people.
I’ve tried living in cities before. I’ve lived in Richmond, VA, and I’ve lived in Indianapolis, IN, as well as being close enough to Washington, DC most of my life to be able to make a go of it any time I want. The fact is I can’t stand city life, not even for a visit, and I would despise living there. The handful of cities that I have visited have almost universally been a disappointment, and I truly cannot comprehend why people rave about them (either individually or the urban landscape as a concept).
My reasons for hating on cities are many and varied. The first is the people. Not just the seething mass of humanity that presses in on you constantly from all angles like the worst version of a zombie film ever (although clearly that’s an issue for me), but the sheer fact that the human capacity for politeness seems to be directly proportional to the amount of square footage they have available to them. The more people you pack into a given area the less polite they tend to be, and cities generally allow 2 square inches per person. I grew up in the suburbs, where getting within arm’s length of someone else was either an invitation to make-out or initiating a fight, so this is more than a little disturbing to me (I understand that if you grow up in rural areas being within shouting distance of another person makes you claustrophobic, but I could be misinformed).
The second reason I hate cities is the traffic. Talk to me all day about public transit, but I’ve taken public transit before and I’ll never make that mistake again. Not only does it expose me to other people in close proximity (see above), but it’s inconvenient and occasionally dangerous… on a good day. Traffic in most cities is frustrating, maddening, and in some cases life-threatening, but at least I have my own vehicle for it. The pedestrians and bike riders are even worse, being the most dangerous hazard on the road right after the other cars, but at least they bounce off. Of course this leads to the issue of parking, of which there is none, unless you’re willing to pay more to park your car than you did to go to college.
The next thing I hate about cities is the atrocious service you get practically everywhere. Granted this isn’t universal but it comes pretty close. I’ve gotten bad service in the ‘burbs, but it seems like cities make an art form out of it. Something about the knowledge there’ll be another one right behind you (and usually they are, in fact, right behind you – it’s called “personal space” folks) seems to lead these companies to think they can get away with murder. Except the hit men; they don’t even bother. The worst part is they’re usually right, because I see these companies staying open well past the point I would expect even a Mafia front to shut down due to lack of business.
Even worse than the service is the prices. Now I get supply and demand as well as the next guy. I just don’t get the demand. When apartments the size of my walk-in closet are going for as much as my entire house I have to start questioning the sanity of all parties involved. Do I love my commute? Of course not! I have to deal with people who are even worse drivers than I am, and that’s a distinction that takes some serious effort to achieve. But I do enjoy eating something other than ramen noodles every day of my life.
With all that in mind, here’s my top five list of cities I would never live in on a bet:
5. Richmond, VA: Been there, done that, just barely got out alive. And I mean that literally. There are some parts that aren’t as bad as others, but on the whole there’s so little to recommend it it’s not worth the effort to even drive through.
4. Arlington, VA: Everything I hate about Washington, DC with none of the redeeming features. Even worse, it forces me to acknowledge that DC has redeeming features. I hate that.
3. Washington, DC: What’s not to hate about DC? The politicians, the government (local and federal), the street layout, the pretentiousness… and that’s just the nice parts of the city.
2. New York City, NY: I despise NYC. Sorry, had to get it out there. This is a town so very full of itself that rides way too high on way too little. I’ve been there and frankly I just don’t get what the hubbub is all about. At least LA is warm.
1. Chicago, IL: Here’s another one that’s riding on the past and has nothing to show for it. Seriously, unless you like sports… I take that back, even if you like sports there are better towns. This place is a dirty, smelly, rundown dump, and that’s if you DON’T include Gary, IN.
So there you have it, one man’s ode to urban existence. Feel free to add your own favorites to the hate parade in the comments below.