Last night, I conducted an inadvertent social experiment.
But, let’s begin at the beginning. Saturday, I decided to open up the boxes labeled “Stuff” that I’d been dragging all around the world for the last five years. I think we all have a “stuff” box, what makes me special is that I have three. I found old high school diaries, elementary school report cards, maintenance records for a car that died seven years ago, a hilarious series of photos of my sister in a softball uniform, birthday cards dating back 15 years, slides, four Weebles, and, uh, both of my birth certificates (dual citizenship means double the documentation and double the fun).
So I spent the rest of the evening dividing things in categories, throwing out what I didn’t want to keep, and cringing and laughing at the various glimpses of my old self. Once I had everything sorted, I left it all in piles on the floor and went to bed. Those piles stayed in place until last night.
After work, I stopped by the Chinatown Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a three-drawer plastic chest organizer thing with wheels. I figured I had three categories, so I’d just toss everything in and be done with the project once and for all. I used one of those self-replenishing BB&B 20% off coupons (have you ever noticed that the same day you use one, a new one arrives in the mail?).
Once I got outside, though, I was faced with a problem. Or rather, a series of problems, all related to the fact that I didn’t know how to get the stupid thing home. The first problem was that I don’t have a car, so I couldn’t drive. The second was that I didn’t have cash on me, so I couldn’t get a cab. The third was that I didn’t want to drag this thing onto the Metro in rush hour. The fourth problem was that I’m a big enough dork that I decided to just walk home and wheel the thing along myself. So I popped the wheels in place and set out on my way.
This proved fun. Really. I alternated between wheeling and carrying the thing, depending on how choppy the sidewalk was.
And this is where the social experiment began. See, I’m one of Washington’s smallest brunettes. And I was carrying a large, bulky object that looked far heavier than it actually was. I got a lot of startled looks, a few offers of assistance, and a couple of snooty guffaws. What was telling was that while absolutely everybody stared at me, mostly young men in business clothes and homeless guys would offer to help, and suburbanite families would laugh.
So youth and homelessness were the sources of chivalry and compassion, which brings up all sorts of questions. Why did families find me so funny? Is it because they’ve got their own nuclear, insular world, so they’re safe enough to mock single girls that don’t have cars with which to haul their furniture? And why were young men offering to help? And why were they so courtly with me, when most of the pregnant women I’ve known have had a bear of a time getting young guys to give up their seats on the Metro? Is it because young guys figure a pregnant woman is off the market, so their Chick-o-Meter doesn’t activate?
(Definition: The Chick-O-Meter isolates and zeroes in on potentially single women at the exclusion of all others. Example: I once asked a friend about a female friend of mine he’d met at my wedding, who was sitting about five feet away from him at the same table for a period of several hours. He did not recall her at all, but, once I clarified that she was there with her husband, he shrugged and said, “Oh. That’s why. She was already tagged.”)
I wheeled the thing down Seventh, across the Mall, and finally home. The entire trip took about 30 minutes.
And here’s what we learned:
1. I am the sort of person who keeps elementary school report cards.
2. I am the sort of person who cleans out her closet on a Saturday night.
3. I am the sort of person that parades down Seventh Street with furniture, looking people dead in the eye to see what they’ll do about it.