Monday, June 19, 2006

Oh, there you are

I found all the poor people. They're at six flags.

Went there Sunday with my brother to ride some rollercoasters. It had been ages since I'd been to any such establishment. I recognized immediately that I was, by many measures, out of my element, and by others, back to the element I grew up in/ with.

The attire was mostly sports jerseys for the men, complete with some chains, shorts that end just past the knees, and baseball hats with straight brims and nary a mark on them. The women were in the tightest stuff they owned, even if they were 80 pounds over weight.

I got to see several frighteningly obese folk, some of whom were on those "I've given up all physical activity save moving my arm to stuff food in my face" electric scooter things.

My brother, who's carrying more pounds than he wants to already, ordered me to kill him should he ever reach that state. I told him I'd just haul him off to the deep Alaskan wilderness and leave him and let nature take its course. He'd come back fit or not at all.

In line I noticed that I was, on average, a foot taller than everyone. Part of this was due to the presence of children. But it was also due to the ethnic makeup: Lots of Mexican and Asian folk.

Now before you get all angry at me for making sweeping generalizations, two things: 1) I make sweeping generalizations for a living. I've done consumer research for years. It's my job to take a few bits of information about someone and unravel what's most probably true about them. I've seen enough of how age, race, education, income, marital status, presence of children and geography come together to make predicting any from the others, and just about anything else possible. My prejudices are informed by numbers.

Thing 2) I grew up with this crowd. Transitioning from struggling working class to affluent professional class has been a bit of a challenge in my life. I don't fit with either crowd. My extended family is a bit harder to relate to, and some friends from grade school and high school are even tougher to relate to. I went to grade school and high school in Lawrence, MA. The mean and median incomes in that town are about 2/3 the national average. And check the ethnic makeup.

Very different from the 6-figure plus graduate degree crowd I rub elbows with on a daily basis. None of them are bad people, they just tend not to understand how the other crowd lives.

The rollercoasters were thrilling. Got a huge kick out of the pictures they take of you at the "Oh shit" moment. It's fair to say that my look was usually one of gleeful determination, with a trace of concern. My brother's was often a bit more "I made a very big mistake and I want off". Which we got a good laugh about. We had a good day just being brothers.

I learned Steve has a lot more street smarts than I do. Of course, I'm not hard to beat in that category.