I’ve been thinking a lot about our recent trip to Minneapolis and why I enjoyed it so much. One reason was that I got to spend quality time with Sean, who I only see on my three-day weekends because during the week we live 150 miles apart. (He’s in Ventura while I’m in Morro Bay.) Another reason was that I got to meet and hang out with my longtime online pal Alisha. It was so refreshing to bond with a female friend after all the time that I spend working among male inmates and male staff in a men’s prison.
Sean has said to me several times before: “Working in the prison is changing your view of humanity.” And it’s true. When I’m out in the community, I view the world through the lens of someone who has seen the worst in human nature. When Sean and I were riding on public transit through downtown Minneapolis, I couldn’t help thinking that it would be so easy for someone to jump on the light rail without paying, or deface the clean interior with graffiti, or snatch people’s cell phones out of their hands, or hold a gun to their face and demand their wallet and valuables. These are the things that I know a person is capable of doing to another person, and I expect it to happen.
In Minneapolis, however, I kept noticing little things that showed me that people can still be inherently good. On our first day walking through downtown, Sean and I started to cross the street and a taxi driver made a left-hand turn at the intersection and drove across our path. There was still a lot of room in the crosswalk, so he didn’t exactly cut us off, but he held up a hand and meekly waved in apology. That is something you will never see in Los Angeles.
Another time, I watched a college student running to catch the light rail before it pulled away from the station. She quickly held her rail pass against the electronic detector, but in her hurry, the card didn’t scan and the machine beeped an alert. Rather than keep going and just jumping on the rail, she stopped, turned back, and made sure that her barcode scanned properly, as a conscientious, decent human would do. I was impressed.
Other things about the city impressed me. From the airport to our hotel to downtown, we were easily able to get around by foot and public transportation. If it had snowed heavily, we could have used the skyways to avoid much of the bad weather. I didn’t see any graffiti or gang tagging on buildings or signs. I noticed that there were plenty of trash and recycling receptacles around. Having a chronic dry cough left over from my week with the flu, I was constantly unwrapping cough drops, but I didn’t have to keep the wrappers in my pocket for very long. Pretty much on every block, I could expect to see a receptacle where I could toss my trash. I also noticed that there was almost no litter on the ground, everywhere we went. I’m pretty sure those ubiquitous trash and recycling receptacles had something to do with that. Minneapolis is a city that takes care of its own.
Tomorrow I go back to work at the prison. I’m hoping that there will be no crises or difficult patients to deal with, just so I can slowly ease back into that world and hold onto my renewed faith in humanity for a little while longer.