That’s right. It’s a diverse, albeit upscale, neighbourhood as mentioned time and again, but I’ve just about seen it all here in the Rittenhouse Square. Or in some cases, heard it all. I’ve seen arguments between married couples, compliments, exclamations, serenades and I’ve had plenty of insults hurled at me too, the vast majority of them happening whilst completing my running for the day. I’m here often though, because I have plenty of friends living here, my favourite running shop is here as well, and I do wind up running loads of errands in both this and the surrounding neighbourhoods in the city. Like it or not, it has been a significant part of my life, especially the past 5 years once I finished university.
As a result, there’s enough I have encountered out there such that I had to compile a Top 10 list, probably the first of many given life here in downtown Philadelphia.
That said, let the hilarity – or eyerolling – depending on how you look at it – ensue. The 10 most shocking comments said or overheard in or around the square within the last year:
10 “So many hot men in the Score-chester. I’ve bedded so many, I want to have them all but (expletive) it I simply can’t!” This was in a building on the square called the Dorchester, which houses loads of area graduate students, as does 2400 Chestnut and the Wanamaker building. Now I was chilling with a friend on the 17th floor of the building roughly 6 months ago in late April; as I walked out the door, I had heard a graduate student (she was wearing a Penn Law shirt, mind you) mutter this on her cell. If you don’t believe how infamous the building is for people hooking up, you might want to read this article. It was true decades ago, at press time 3 years ago and still is true today.
9 “I wish all the people under 30 [years old] would just disappear.” Seen and heard at the Parc on 18th Street on a Wednesday evening (15 Sept 2010), as I was cooling down after a group run on MLK Drive. The people quoted were all elderly and the square’s neighbourhood is going through a transition where more of the younger crowd are moving in. There is an odd distribution, about half the population in the area are elder retirees and the other half up and coming graduate students or young working professionals, with a steady increase in the latter. I’m guessing us Gen-Yers are a little too much for the elderly to handle. Or maybe the hustle of city life in general might be too much for someone that’s moved into the city after so many years of suburbia. Could be a number of things that made them tick.
8 “I deserve to eat at the Parc because I want to see and be seen!” In of itself, considering the sheer number of divas I’ve run into in any city, this may actually be considered a normal statement. Unfortunately it’s the context that I felt made it outrageous. It’s just at 10am on a Friday I was wrapping up a mid-distance run in August and hearing this statement between a woman and her husband who has just been laid off from his job it makes me wonder thinking there are still enough people that don’t quite use their heads when financial disaster strikes. Look folks, the Parc isn’t cheap. I’m not one to tell people how they should spend their money, but in these times…wow. Take a cue from Lindsay Lohan who pretends she’s the hottest thing in Hollywood, but is reportedly insanely in debt between her party lifestyle and her inability to hold down roles for reasons I think the world knows at this point. I don’t know if the lady in this situation worked or not, but had I not heard “well, honey it would help if I had a job,” from her husband (presumably given the wedding bands on their fingers) right after her whining well, simply put I wouldn’t have buried my head in my hand. Some people just don’t get it.
7 “Damn runners need to stay away from Center City so they don’t run us over.” Heard during my 10-mile group run 4 weeks ago on 16th and Walnut. Alright folks, newsflash: we aren’t going to pitch tents in Fairmount Park just so we stay out of your way. We have to find a way to get home if we live in Center City. We’ll do our best to avoid you. In fact, we’re athletes, we’re passionate about our sport and you better well believe we’re doing everything we can to avoid injury. And in a city of 1.5 million people (total metro area: 5.8 million) with more from the burbs occasionally coming in to run, do you expect anyone and everyone to stay out of your way? Did the world’s supply of common sense run out? If it did, could someone please refill the bucket, because we’re in dire need of some here downtown. Geez.
6 “Do they pass the “what are you doing here” test?” Alright, I’m not one to pick the Parc as a place to eat dinner, however one of our good friends who had secured a job out of state enjoyed eating here on occasion and he had picked the venue for his going-away party. Now, I am appreciative of my friends and I could have cared less who outside our circle of graduate students/working professionals that knew him saw and was with me there. However, when we sat down we made quite a lively conversation (party of 8 here) being the energetic young group we were. We were not obnoxious all else equal but we might have just spoilt the tranquility for some of the elder couples as an old lady three tables down muttered this editorial as I passed her on the way to the bathroom. Yes we were the only ones in the restaurant under the age of 35 eating with you all on a Monday night around 7:30pm. No not all of us think we’re God’s gifts to the world, and hopefully you all don’t feel that way about yourselves either. It’s just that we might not see our friend for quite some time, if ever again and quite frankly in this atrocious economy, we’re deathly grateful that he snagged the opportunity he did. So please let us celebrate accordingly: in other words ma’am, the answer to your question is a resounding yes.
5 “YEAHHH Snooki! Keep up the running! Hey look everyone, it’s Snooki from Jersey Shore!” This was on a weeknight when I was wrapping up a five-mile tempo run in Rittenhouse Square. I was running through 19th and Walnut when two young preppy-looking men made the comment about me looking like Snooki…and I was dripping sweat in a red Adidas technical shirt and black polyester running shots and my pink-ish Asics. Last I checked, Snooki doesn’t run, and she certainly wouldn’t be running in Rittenhouse Square. We might have the same complexion, but that’s about it. Also if you want to claim to be fans of that notorious show, at least do your research before making such comments – at the time I did that run, the show’s cast was supposed to be filming in Miami. Fail.
4 “My God! Why don’t you go home and take care of your family?” This occurred on a Thursday night, 21 October, due to my travels, I swapped my rest days (Thursdays are normally my rest days) which resulted in my doing my normal Kelly Drive loop. I had to stop briefly as I was making my way back and was just off the square at 20th and Walnut Streets when I barely averted a South Asian (presumably Indian) lady who was a little less than amused at seeing me dripping in sweat as we were both waiting to cross the street. Also the comment about my family…you know what they say about assumptions right?
3 “Living in Rittenhouse Square is beneath me.” Some people in the square might come off as pretentious, but if you have the guts to say something as inane as this, you had better have a pretty damn good reason. This was a comment heard from a banker at a networking event that I attended at the Union League (140 S. Broad St.) earlier this spring. At the very least I had to wonder if this person is a former resident of Manhattan, Beverly Hills or some other over the top city that simply isn’t able to appreciate what Philadelphia as a whole has to offer. Nonetheless, the only person who I can imagine giving a pass to on this sort of comment is Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels – who infamously lives high in the sky in Two Liberty Place – as he would probably be mobbed if he were caught walking the streets of the Square itself. Ditto for teammate Chase Utley who lives in a $4.1MM penthouse in the quieter Washington Square West area. So yes, they’ve got a legit security issue that makes them “too good” to live in Rittenhouse. My point is, unless you are Hamels, Utley or another well-known public figure, just put up or shut up. It’s simply not needed.
2 “Oh that’s just another overweight out of shape pretender, there’s too many around here in Philly. It’s the land of cheesesteaks here, this is what we get.” This occurred late last year (October 2009) on 19th and Walnut as I had just quit my last job and wanted to get back in shape again. I had blogged about this one before and it’s stuff like this that makes me want to prove people wrong. As if that weren’t bad enough, first off, I’m a vegetarian and I have been for four years. Granted it’s possible to avoid meat and still eat poorly but my issue was working way too much and hardly exercising. Second, I’m not sure what basis she used to conclude that I was a “pretender.” Third, just before someone eats cheesesteaks doesn’t mean they are overweight. Good lord. Oh yeah and when someone’s running too…seriously?
1 “Nope, just checking to make sure you were actually consuming what you said you were consuming. You are free to go now.” Yep, this was when the Rittenhouse cop suspected me of drug use. There might have been some logic in why he initially pulled me aside but I still don’t get why he questioned me after sniffing the GU. Overall, this one simply reeks of stupidity: I was upset then, and it still baffles me now.
All in all, I don’t like stereotyping people, and I’m just hoping most of the people who have made these comments were just having bad days. But it’s also things like these that make me wonder in general, as I’ve had more than my share of ignorant comments hurled my way growing up in Lancaster County. Assumptions about who I am because of what I look like, how I dress, what I do. The results can be astounding and it can happen anywhere.
Don’t get me started on some of the more chilling issues of recent times: school bullying, anti-gay slurs, and the like. It’s times like these that some of us lose our faith in humanity.