Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On Reading, Pennsylvania

Reading, Pennsylvania may be a very fine city. It may possess unique history, a varied culture, and a kind, hard working populace. But I’ll never know. And I’ve been to Reading…at least, four times. I’m actually in Reading right now. Still, all I know of Reading is the few blocks I drove through to get to my hotel and the view out the window of Room 1111 of the Wyndham hotel. From the eleventh floor I see two parking garages, the roofs of a series of unexceptional blocky buildings, and the familiar, fluorescent glow of a strip mall off in the distance. There is nothing of particular interest beckoning me from the hotel.

Twice a year, I make the five-hour drive to Reading for a corporate sales seminar. I arrive late the night before. I spend the entire next among a herd of salesmen in their shirtsleeves, shuffling joylessly from one drab windowless meeting room to another. When the seminar ends, everyone races to his respective vehicle. I hope like hell to be home before 10 pm. It is really a drab, soul sucking experience. Staring at one hideous wallpaper design after another while being ‘inspired’ to sell more and more. It plays like a low rent extended Mamet play.

So, between the dull view from my window and my less than interesting experiences here, it is only natural I should have no real interest in the city of Reading. When I think of the town, I can only muster the image of a salesman infested hotel bar and the taste of the rubber chicken served for lunch.

This is not fair to Reading. Sure, the city may, indeed stink. If I spent more time here, I may even grow to actively hate it. But at least that would be an opinion developed over the course of a fuller experience. I have come to feel that I actually owe this town a fair chance. I should look up local art museums. I should seek out an interesting eatery. I should start a conversation with some of the local residence. I should see what this place actually has to offer.

Of course, I probably will never have the opportunity to give Reading a fair shake. There really are many other things I would like to do more. Other goals to meet, other places to visit. Vacationing in Reading is not exactly high on the list of things to do before I die. It’s a shame, but that’s life. Until the day I day, Reading, PA will only conjure images of concrete and seminars.