Saturday, December 16, 2006

through the looking glass

Been trying to clarify a feeling I've had for a while, which is to do with the way that driving a cab somehow increases the curiosity I feel about the nature & appearance of this City. On days off I love to ramble down any old street, any old where - so long as it's one I've driven down. Not an onerous qualification, because you find yourself driving down most streets in the CBD & the inner city at some time or other. It's a through-the-looking-glass feeling, I think: in the cab you view things from a point of view that is anonymous, global, voyeuristic, detached. You see all sorts of goings on but only at a remove. You feel like an omnipotent observer in a moving Panopticon. What you don't see is much detail, & here I mean both physical detail of buildings, shops, footpaths & so forth as well as the human detail of possible or actual interactions with people casually met in the street. This somehow makes the experience of mingling in the street much more enticing. I don't experience people in the street as alienating or alienated - quite the opposite. I'm avid for contact, even of the most fleeting sort, & Sydney being the louche, informal, anything goes kind of place that it is, such interactions are available anywhere, anytime. And, at the same time, it is, like any City of several hundred years age, so intricately, comprehensively & randomly layered that the built environment is itself full of interest, full of surprises, replete with interactions of a different kind. I wonder if, without the functional alienation of driving, I would still feel this equal & opposite degree of intense engagement?