Despite being over 139 square miles in area and a population over 600,000, there are some aspects of Detroit life that remind me a lot of my hometown with just over 5,000 people or even Duke’s campus of 7,000 graduates. Everyone seems to know each other or if they don’t, it seems very easy to get to know someone. For the past 4 weeks, I have been riding the QLine to commute to and from work. For the first week, I usually spent these rides taking quick 10-minute nap before a long day at the office or with my eyes down looking at my phone or reading a book. One morning around the second week when I had gotten enough sleep the night before and did not feel the need for a power nap, I found myself looking around the street car, out the window, and being aware of the conversations around me. That morning, I saw an elderly woman and an elderly man strike up a conversation about their wheel chairs and they ended up bonding over their horror stories about the Detroit public busses and what wheel chair models were the best. At the end of this conversation, they exchanged numbers and planned on meeting up again. On another QLine ride, a woman maybe in her thirties was talking to her coworker when she suddenly turned her attention to an older man who had just gotten on. She, without hesitation, taps him on his shoulder and asks “Hey! Do you remember working with me?”. The man does not give a very affirmative response but she continues to say that she used to be a dancer for the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park and he was her supervisor. She finally manages to coax the man into a conversation and they reminisced on her favorite ushers and what they were up to now.
I’ve even had my own experience with run ins in Detroit. A few weeks ago, Vinit and I volunteered at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative with a group of interns from Quicken Loans. At lunch, one of the Quicken Loans interns sat next to us and we made some pleasant small talk. Since then, I have run into this girl three times on various streets around the city and we still say hi and catch up every time we see each other. I attended one of DXF’s small BIZ tours last week and met a man and his son visiting from Ohio. A few days later, they stop by the DXF Welcome Center again just to say hi to those of us he met on the tour and to share a funny story. Although I’ll only be here for two months, Detroit has become a familiar place for me. I probably will not finish my book during my commutes as I had originally planed, but keeping my eyes and ears open to my now familiar QLine commuters has turned out to be even more valuable.