One of those things that feels like it’s going away is gathering at a community hangout space. Maybe it’s the pandemic, or maybe it’s the continuing dominance of the digital world. We feel like we have access to everything and everyone. Hanging out is not so necessary.
When big malls that took up entire city blocks were part of our lives, teens would make them hang out spots. They didn’t do much shopping, but they walked around and bumped into other teens that they kind of knew from their schools. Sometimes they would just sit at the food court or show up early just to chill before the nighttime movie began.
Before malls, there was cruising. That’s something I enjoyed. Not much of the hanging out time was in a specific community spot, but you all did it together, some of your friends in the car, other friends in the cars ahead and behind you. You weren’t really going anywhere, but you were all moving, and you were all together. That’s the important part. Being together.
Before cruising there were diners. Those kinds that were at a corner nearby your high school and it seemed like an obligation to stop by at the end of the class day. The food was affordable and easy to understand. You controlled the music from right at your table. The windows were big and you could see who drove up and what they drove as they arrived to join you. That mattered because it was a time when every car was unique in color and in model. No matter what you drove, it was the diner that brought you together.
We’ve always had city parks and we still have them today. Families use them for playtime with the kids and sometimes for picnics. People go there for big events, concerts, or to line up for parades. And yet, when you are there, something feels like it’s missing.
Coffee shops are popular. From a standard cup of joe to a coffee concoction that looks like a dessert in a cup, you would think coffee and smooth jazz playing in the background would make for an inviting place for anyone. But when I go to them, I see people on the laptops trying to meet deadlines doing the kinds of things they do in their offices. Looking down, typing, answering emails, creating their own little work cubicles.