Got out of the Bubble briefly yesterday. Yep, still such a rarity that I feel inclined to report it. My daughter is enrolled in a theatre camp at Round House in Bethesda this week. I went with my husband to pick her up at the end of the day.
First, to all of you people who commute every day, I'm sorry that I have never taken the time to stop and commiserate with you. It is brutal. The trip took an easy half hour to get there, over an hour to return. I have spent twelve years driving all over Howard County but that is nothing compared to this mind-sucking experience. (For one thing, Howard County is more scenic.)
Aside from that, I was reminded yet again how important it is to get out of the Bubble. You know you have spent too much time in Columbia when you wonder why all the streets and houses look so...old. Don't laugh. As we drove in towards Bethesda on the East-West Highway, passing the Trader Joe's, it felt like entering another world.
Old suburban neighborhoods. Houses with a variety of architectural detail. Old sidewalks. Small groups of shops. Things closer together with less empty space. But things are alive, bustling. We stopped in a huge, comfy Starbucks unlike anything we have here. Available parking was limited, but the ambience inside the space was awesome.
By the time we got to the major intersection in Bethesda, I was again struck by how the world is full of people who don't live like us and don't want to. Talk about mixed use! But it doesn't feel grimy and unsafe. It feels--dare I say--vibrant. Plenty of the teens attending camp have permission from their parents to go out on their own to buy lunch in the neighborhood. Some went to the Safeway to grab something, some to Starbucks.
Imagine. A safe, interesting, vibrantly urban downtown where you'd feel comfortable with your young teens stepping out to grab lunch on their own. Could we even wrap our brains around that here in the Bubble? You need walkability, a healthy retail and arts community, good transportation...
I am learning a lot from my daughter's summer camp. And yesterday was only the first day. Clearly I need to get out more.