Sunday, January 21, 2007


It was Sunday. The first nice day in weeks and even though most things were closed people were roaming the streets: walking their children, driving their cars, and riding the bus. Across from the moonlight tower on Chicon and Martin Luther King stands the BRITE FOODMART. Its color, location, purpose, and surroundings make it a natural gathering point promoting human interaction.
On the corner of these two streets in East Austin, a bus arrives and unloads a single person carrying a large sack of dirty clothes. Headed for the Laundromat behind the foodmart, Michael walks around the bright pink store and enters the Laundromat to begin washing his load of clothes.

After a few minutes of being in the Laundromat, Michael walks out of the door and walks into the foodmart. He enters, looks to the cashier, motions a “hello”, and moves into the back of the store towards the drinks. He goes to the Coca-Cola, reaches in a grabs a cold can, then moves to the candy and carefully looks over the chocolate choices. He chooses Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and proceeds to the check-out counter.

José, the cashier, takes the items and scans them into the computer trying to carry on a little small talk with his customer. They discuss the weather, past and present, and José talks about how business has been slow the entire week due to the ice.

“Two twenty-three,” José says to Michael as Michael hands him a five dollar bill. José returns the change into Michael’s hand and passes him the Coke and candy. They exchange goodbyes as Michael walks out of the store and returns to the Laundromat to finish his clothes.

While walking out of one door and into another, Michael encounters a man who is carrying one full bag of cans and is working on gathering cans to fill another bag. He has seen this man before but has never interacted with him in person. Michael continues to walk towards the Laundromat drinking his Coke and eating his candy. He goes in, folds his clothes and places them into his large duffel bag again. He finishes his snacks and walks out the door towards the bus stop. As he is approaching the bus stop, he stops, hands the empty can to help the man fill his sack, wishes him a good-day and steps onto the bus.


eray said...

I'm glad you chose this site too. It was just brimming with activity when we both went and apparently much more so than some other sites downtown. I saw a girl with a hula hoop walk into that Brite Wash and it was awesome because I thought, when was the last time a saw a girl with a hula hoop? I wish I lived in East Austin so I could play with a hula hoop. Because OMG what a fashion don't in West Campus.

natalia said...

OMG eray lets go buy hula hoops. who cares about fashion don'ts.

i like the urban feeling of this site. it's different from many of the other sites. from what charlie and eray have expressed, it seems more relational; that people are more likely to let their guard down and share life together here.

eray said...

I think that's totally true, Natalia. I went back to the site today around rush hour and it was amazing how many people circulated through the three buildings on that one block. I saw many instances of a person going to the Brite Food Mart and then immediately to the Brite Laundomat and vice versa, and then the worker at Brite Food Mart leaving his store for about ten minutes and walking over to the laundromat. Plenty of people were open to talking to me today and even letting me take their picture. It seems much more relaxed there as people walk around, unlike campus or downtown where everyone has somewhere to be and won't really give you the time of day. Or maybe they do, I guess since I didn't do my study there I shouldn't jump to conclusions.

carl said...

i think that the most significant part of your narrative comes at the end when you say that Michael had never interacted with the can man in person. By making the distinction, it kinda forces you to think about what degree of interaction is interaction. If I pass you on the street have way we interacted? Most would say no, but yes is just as valid.