Sheri asked me if I wanted to go roller blading in Audubon Park
before it got dark tonight, since she was going running anyway. On the way back to our apartment building, I forgot again that this weekend is Bayou Classic
. It’s a weekend during which Grambling plays football against some other school at the Superdome. Lots of SUV’s
with plastic pom poms stuck out their windows and flags from their antennas. It’s also an opportunity to show off whatever Mack Daddy
vehicle you wish to sit in dead locked
traffic so that you can show it off.
To me, it is not important who plays who this weekend but instead the effect the event has on locals, most of which, I think, care less either way. It is the one time of year that I feel even slightly racist. The other time is during Heritage Festival, during the Fourth of July, because I used to work in the Quarter at a café. The people who came in droves for the days demanded extra water, extra jelly and butter, made us wait on them hand and foot and never tipped. Most of the people who come for that event as well as this one are black. I don’t care what color you are, not tipping is just not cool.
Maybe it’s just something about black Southern culture that I do not, as a white person, have the capacity to understand. When all the indications are there, you expect certain things to happen, because they usually happen in a certain way. You get in your car, your car has gas in it, you put the key in the ignition and move from your parking space out the street, into traffic, and you expect certain things. You expect drivers to go the right way down the street, to follow traffic lights, to know where they’re going and to maintain a certain speed. You anticipate everyone else on the road has somewhere they want to be, otherwise they wouldn’t be out on that road in the first place, trying to get there. Downtown, the police block off certain streets and direct traffic, so much that the lit intersections are null and void. Sheri rolls down her window to yell at the truck that is blocking the intersection and our path to back up, I chastise her, fearing for my safety, as I am in an unfamiliar area of the city. It’s not that I believe that black people are more prone to violence, but I have heard of increased assaults during this weekend due to heightened adrenaline levels and the simple fact that crowds increase your chances for unrest.
And it is not that everyone else around me isn’t agitated by the backup; they just have more keeping them entertained in their vehicles, I’d say. They’ve got far better stereo systems than I and, often, DVD players and TV screens. No one slows to a crawl unless someone is trying to pass them; no one lets anyone merge in front of them as an act of kindness. This does not work well with my already perched impatience level, one I swallow down at long, seemingly motionless lines at Walgreen’s. It doesn’t help that I am a transplanted local from the nearer to Northern state of Maryland, where I am not the minority by a 60:40 ratio. Having to wait and not caring is much more a Southern thing, and often one that can only, it seems, be truly acceptable for people who have never known anything else. And, New Orleans being as it is, I am getting the worst possible scenario for it.
I also have issues with all this as an employee at a body shop. I see the Macked out cars as thorns in the owners’ sides, because I know how expensive those custom paint jobs can be, and as frequent collisions are in this state, I am amazed at how many people have them, since they are more likely than anyone to get hit because they are so eye-catching (sort of why I believe that red sports cars get hit the most, aside from the fact that they are driven by morons).
Just like Mardi Gras, the white frat boy’s excuse to make an ass out of him self at the forfeit of peace and quiet, I try to stay home during this time and out of harm’s way. Unlike Mardi Gras, I never had a moment where I enjoyed these events because I generally abhor sports that usurp a city like this one has. I don’t care if it brings money to the area, since by the surface of our streets and housing conditions of our citizens, the money clearly isn’t going where it’s most needed. I want to see the city improve, not revel in its broken state, not to clog intersections with my consumerism and flaunt my power as one member of a mob. Bayou Classic is one of the few things about New Orleans I will not miss when I leave.