Wednesday, January 31, 2024

February Frolic


     Best keep an open mind. February does not have to be the low point of a dismaying year (wars and worry about wars, moral and political). Much else is conspiring to distract your attention.

    For instance, the DC History Center's 'Book Talk" is titled 'The Rise of Uber in DC." How did authors of that book come up with such a seemingly innocuous title when they are, it appears, calling out Uber's success here  as 'a symptom of urban weakness and low expectations of local, city politics.' 

    Take a chance on a free lecture/symposium event and find out. The 23rd of the month at 5 p.m., followed, as noted by the Center's Web site. It's certainly an unusual look at an unusual  city that has no equal in its history and current composition.  And who is to judge anyway? (To ease any disturbing revelations, the Center also recommends that attendees stick around for Apple's 'Friday evening DJ series, 6-7:30, taking place in the same building. (The former Carnegie Library is an historic building set in a welcoming park on one of Washington's most well trafficked areas. And note! The building is easily accessed on the Metro's greenline, Mt. Vernon Square, a few blocks area. Access for disabled patrons is provided everywhere, and broad sidewalks ensure easy circulation for pedestrians.)

    A controversy of sorts but not one recognized by those who favor the ease and convenience of ride sharing/personal control ways of moving around without having to worry about finding a parking space.

    Ah, but this is deceptive because Uber/Lyft/others can be expensive, and the rider has only minimum control - though offered some choices  - of price.

    Another tack might be: Uber's existence also speaks as a mirror of diversity in a city whose popularion and traditions often cited as  having a 'Southern' (read: white) cast. DC also is known as Chocolate City though statistics of late question the relevance as gentrification moves on. Drivers are often from so-called minority states and cultures. Their accents do not often lean 'South.' Was a recent ride going from Dupont Circle to the Navy Yard on a Thursday evening count as typical? 

     The passengers included a woman visitor from Puerto Rico on the last few days of her stay. Her speech was strongly accented - German - reflecting her original home. It was her first time using the Uber App that her host had strongly suggested she  experience for this and any other future trips to cosmopolitan areas where Uber has invariably made inroads. The driver was a friendly Virginia  native with a slight Spanish inflection in his voice. His family had come from a Latin American country before he was born and it turned out in a very few minutes of conversation that he was interested in possibly moving to San Juan - for the climate and for less expensive daily living. He  quizzed his customer on that last point, having heard her  volunteer that she had been in PR for 40 years, first as an employe of an international business and now as a retiree with a grown daughter. She chose to live in a small town on the southwest so was well versed and happy to share information. He asked quickly about the availability of a university and the best modes of travel back and forth to and from the US.

    No names were exchanged but he noted the name of her town and the passenger in turn said she would welcome him if he came.

    Not quite a United Nations moment but perhaps revealing in its own way.  A true cross section of the greater Washington area that can offer much more in quiet ways than  politics in the headlines. Next week a chance to attend a National Archives event - hosted by the NA Foundation - free as many such are not to mention activities in perpetual motion at the fabled Smithsonian buildings on the Mall.  


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