Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Shanghai is Closer than the Suburbs

A good friend of mine has just moved to the suburbs, actually worse than that, the ruburbs, and I am scared. Scared that I shall never see her again. Because this has happened before. A fun former coworker with whom I hung out a lot many years ago moved to the far northern suburbs, and the last time I saw her and her family, I didn't even have my third child yet (he's eleven now). For all I know, she could be living in a different country. We kept "wanting to get together," but we never made the time commitment.

The odd thing is, however, that if a friend lives in a different country or another city, I tend to see that person more often. Perhaps because if he or she comes to town, I drop everything and make it work to see him or her. Point in case, a friend from Philadelphia was in town for a performance last week, and even though I really did not have the time to sneak out of the office to meet her for a cup of coffee, I did. Another fun former coworker, originally from Singapore, now lives in Hong Kong, and she's coming back to visit in June, and will stay at our place. That's the other thing about friends from other countries: There's a chance they will stay with you, which means you really get to see them and really get to spend time together. Friends from the suburbs don't stay overnight.

I do see friends in the city more often because indeed, not much transportation time is involved to meet for lunch or dinner. Today, however, I drove all the way to the northwest suburbs of Chicago to have lunch with a friend whom I hadn't seen since last July. And it occurred to me that I have seen my friend from Shanghai more often in the interim - when we roomed together at a writers' conference in October, and when I visited her in Shanghai in March. So there you go - it can be easier to set aside the time to see a friend from Shanghai than one from the suburbs.


  1. In Seattle, this happens when someone moves to the Eastside of Lake Washington (I call it the boring side of the lake). It's where I currently live for a lot of reasons that no longer matter. So I want to move back to Seattle. And all my friends on this side of the lake are horrified, sure they'll never see me.

    1. hey wait a minute- 'the boring side'- I live on the East Side and it is very exciting here - ha ha!!! Of course, I live more to the South of Seattle- in Renton- horrors- I know the moment I mention to someone I live in Renton they take a DEEP breath, and say (in that, oh so placating voice), "Ah, yes...Renton..." ha ha!! so I guess, I'm not only on the boring side- but the 'oh you poor live there' side :)

  2. This is so true!! Because most of my friends are from various countries- they do end up staying with me when they come into town...and I get a chance to see them more often...or as you said, I MAKE TIME...but my daughter lives down in Tacoma and I just went to visit her yesterday. It dawned on me- I had not driven down there for more than 2 months!!!! OH MY-- (of course in that time she has come up this way...but still...I NEED TO MAKE TIME EVEN when they are in the same state)...GREAT Post!!!!!

  3. This was a serious consideration for us lately when we bought our house. We live in a small city (Ottawa, Canada) and the burbs are no more than 20 minutes away from wherever you live, but it's an attitude thing. I knew people would roll their eyes and feel it was an inconvenience to come out and visit, and I'd get lazy and not want to drive "into the city"... Because both my partner and I work from home, we knew our burb life could become awfully isolating. Plus, we just like to be in the city!

  4. landpuppy - I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who feels this way!

    Anjuli - it's frightening, isn't it, to realize how much time can elapse between visiting the important people in our lives!

    Lisa - I've been to Ottawa (Are the tulips blooming yet?), and I remember it as a picturesque town. I wish our suburbs were only a 20 minute drive, I wonder if that would make a difference. After all, downtown Chicago is a 15 minute drive for me, and I go there all the time.

  5. I used to see my father more in Las Vegas when we both traveled there for work even though we only lived 40 minutes apart in California.