There are certain things that one doesn’t experience in day to day working life, unless one works in the downtown area of a mid- to large-sized city. After working in such an area for more than a year, I’ve noticed a number of things I hadn’t ever seen or experienced while growing up and working in Princeton.
Even a mid-sized city like Peoria has a certain glamour and appeal for a small town girl like me. Cities bring back images I guess I must have seen in movies of career women working in business jobs in the city. There’s something very attractive about it – very professional and classy. It inspires me to do my best in what I’m doing – to work hard, give it my all, and to take pride in that.
But first, there’s the commute each morning. Ah, rush hour traffic. Every town and city has its own little rush hour or certain time when the traffic is almost guaranteed to be awful. Even certain routes and streets have time periods when the congestion will be better or worse. But a commute plus summer construction always creates bad results – and unfortunately, often seems to bring out the worst driving in people.
The solution? Commute at strange hours, like 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. That gets to be a bit more tricky if you have a 9 to 5 job or anything close to standard working hours. Actually, commuting during the real rush hour might not be so bad – especially if you’ve figured out a secret route that’s not too far out of the way but is far less traveled. Other things that can help are books on tape and good radio station presets.
Another thing about working in a downtown city area that still strikes me as intriguing is that you can walk to quite a few different choices for lunch. After sitting in air conditioning or heat all day, the outdoor weather is welcomed, even if it’s blistering hot or bone-cold chilly.
Speaking of downtown restaurants, I find it funny when fast food franchises are located in the bottom floor of multi-story office buildings. For example, there’s a Jimmy John’s restaurant located in the bottom floor of an office building in downtown Peoria. It always seems to be busy at lunchtime, so they must be on to something. It’s clear that people who sit in temperature-controlled buildings all day enjoy getting outside at noon, even if it’s just to walk down the street to a restaurant.
Another thing about working in a downtown area is that you become a little desensitized to tourist attractions and local landmarks if they happen to be on your commute. I certainly enjoy visiting downtown Peoria attractions, but I work in a building that’s in the riverfront area. I like the setting, but I guess I sometimes forget – especially when people from out of town drive down that street at about 15 mph, staring at everything around them – that not everyone gets to see what I see every day as part of my typical commute.
I know I’m pretty fortunate to have so many interesting places and things to do so close to my workplace. I appreciate the fact that there’s a gym within a three-minute drive. There are countless unique restaurants. There are museums. There’s even a steamboat. All of these things are great and are very fun to visit. But at the end of the day, I still look forward to heading out to my country home on the opposite side of the river.
When it’s time to end the workday, the city looks a little tired, or maybe that’s just me. The green grass and lush trees in wide open spaces beckon. I answer the call, retracing my commute, and find myself back where I started – in the country. It’s still home to me.
Former Princeton resident Heather (Holland) Lauf resides in Metamora. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.