§ Life seen from the loading dock looks different from the life seen in the lobby.
I’ve been acquainted with one or two of each in my time. I was part of the production crew for a stop on the national tour of Movin’ Out in my Missouri alma mater’s enormous theater. I still see load-in: a small crowd stood in an empty room bigger than most houses. The door was open to the weird blue spectra seen before a dawn. Transport trucks backed up to the dock. Then there was a momentary rush of activity—and the sun had set.
Another dock I know much better is outside Washington, in Virginia, shared by a florist, a retail shop, and a custom engraver. I must have taken hundreds of pensive lunch breaks there, and hauled hundreds of boxes of stock across its concrete surface. And I was just working there part-time. What would I hear if the loading docks could talk? “One box stacked on me came all the way from China and its contents went to clean a dozen homes. And that day, several dozen centerpieces waited on me before they were delivered. It was busy.”
Or, there was the back alley behind a concert venue across the tracks from Chinatown in Chicago. We waited in the cold among the bands that loaded in by order on the bill. One of us noticed she was bleeding—which was a little bit alarming, but, she got it under control. Not much else went on for us. The real rock stars networked and caught up. I imagine the enforced idle time of waiting-in-the-queue is when a lot of bands really get to chat.
§ In cities I prefer to walk half a block over from the main streets, in the alleys. It’s quieter, there are fewer people, and (to me) it’s more interesting. The back alley is reality. There’s no façade whatsoever.
Walk down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and you’ll see storefronts, advertisements, canvassers, and lots of well-dressed people of business and/or tourism. People of wealth—not to be confused with people of substance, of course. Go down the stairs to an underpass and you’ll find different doors into the material machine that makes it work, and almost no one is there who doesn’t have a real reason to be..
Or walk down an alley in a neighborhood holding a mix of apartments and storefronts. No front doors, dressed for everyone’s eyes. Just the back porches, gardens, garages, and realities. People actually use this space for more than movement, and it’s a little more authentic maybe because there’s less point-to-point travel down these unnamed streets we call alleys. People are more still there, and mostly they’re just living.
§ People are able to live an entire life without seeing reality—at least in this moment of human civilization. Instead, they see the images—storefronts, branding, design—that have gradually built up on top of it. Reality is where substance happens, as opposed to style. I worry that too few people are exposed to substance and not enough know that it’s not the same. That’s a danger in an information age, and presents a worrisome question: are you working with and reckoning from the information or the world that it represents?
It’s easy to make bad decisions if that isn’t asked and the answer isn’t known.