28 July 2009

Conceptual distances, or What happened to me?

Density influences the perception of distance. Five miles through open farmland seems a lot farther (sometimes agonizingly so) than five miles in the city. Corn gets kind of boring after a while, you know.

Safety also influences the perception of distance, and I don't just mean traffic safety. Point B seems a lot farther away from Point A if it's separated by a large ghetto economically distressed area, and if you're frightened by the (sometimes mostly imagined, but sometimes very real) risk of being mugged, assaulted, or caught in the crossfire of gang warfare along the way from Point A to Point B.

I should add that this doesn't just apply to biking and walking. It also applies to public transit (how long will I have to stand there waiting for the bus? how long will I be stuck on the train platform?) and even driving. (Ask me how Google's driving directions always tell me to go anywhere from my apartment.)

Original Rainbow Cone is delicious and in Beverly. I am craving delicious ice cream and in Hyde Park. But there's just no good way to get from Hyde Park to Beverly. The distance isn't far by any geographical standard, but Beverly may as well be in China because it's separated from Hyde Park by a large swath of the highest crime neighborhoods in the city. I'm not sure I'd even bother cajoling someone else into driving me there.

Some years ago I would have told anyone "Just ride your bike, duh!" (I probably did so on more than one occasion.) But I'm no longer quite as brave about that sort of thing as I used to be. I'm not sure why.

I often think to myself, if only it were all corn...


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