It’s been a minute since I regaled this cobwebbed corner of the internet with stories from my dumb lunch break walks, but autumn has officially blanketed the city so I felt inspired to get snap-happy.
The blue skies have been very welcome after the dreariness we’ve been experiencing here in Pittsburgh, and I’m not just talking about the weather. Anyone here who says that Synagogue hasn’t affected the city clearly never leaves their house because the atmosphere downtown last week was solemn and at times just straight up electric with anger.
I witnessed two men verbally arguing about Trump, in front of the August Wilson Center, to the point where one of the men was chest-butting the other guy and screaming, “COME AT ME.”
The next evening, I was walking through Market Square after work and stumbled right smack in the middle of an argument about profiling between a small crowd of strangers. One of them screamed, “I’M A JEW!” and another one spat back, “SO AM I!” while the Christmas Market was being assembled several yards away.
‘Tis the fucking season.
Another day, I was walking back to work when I was approached by a middle-aged man. I saw it coming, he had that look of desperation and I have the look of GULLIBILITY, so I wasn’t shocked when he veered toward me.
“Excuse me, ma’am, can you do me a favor?” he asked.
My reflexes are so terrible in these situations because I always feel like I’m damned if I do, etc etc. Of course I always want to ignore these solicitors but at the same time, I’m afraid of angering the wrong person, so I generally at least pretend to be nice for a few seconds.
I figured he was just going to ask for money, because that’s what it always is if it isn’t the extremely rare request for my phone number from someone who is clearly blind. So I figured I would save him his whiskey-breath by shrugging and saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything.”
Usually this works! But not on this day. As I turned to walk away, this ballsy man said, “Come here” as he grabbed me by the sleeve of my coat and attempted to pull me toward him!? OH BITCH HELL NO DO I NEED TO GET SCRAPPY?!
I wrenched my arm back until the fabric slipped from his fingers and, still trying to be SOMEWHAT POLITE because GOD FORBID A WOMAN DENIES A MAN SOMETHING, I said I was late for work an proceeded to walk backward because I was afraid to take my eyes off him. Women get stabbed for shit like this everyday, you never know what you’re dealing with out there!
He just kept talking, too! I think he even said he liked my leg warmers?! Like them all you want, just NEVER TOUCH ME AGAIN, GOOD LORD.
I came back to work and was SHOOK. I went straight to Lauren’s desk and told what happened and only then did I realize that it had upset me so much that I was near tears. I just kept thinking about all the ways that could have taken a turn for the worse.
However! Yesterday, I had quite the opposite experience. I was walking across one of them there bridges, headed back toward the office, when a man about my age stopped before passing me.
“Excuse me, are you from here?” he asked.
HOO BOY, HERE WE GO.
Like a moron, I said yes. For someone who hates people, I sure fucking engage with them willingly. #ContraryMary
“What’s the white building over there?” he said, pointing at something across the river. I braced myself but when I saw what he was pointing at, I was like YES I KNOW THIS. I KNOW THIS!!
“Oh, that’s um, the uh…convention center,” I said with zero conviction because I couldn’t remember the name of the convention center but at least I knew that it was a shelter for conventions!!! It’s also the biggest eyesore in downtown Pittsburgh, if you ask me, but no one ever does.
“Oh, that makes sense,” he said. “And what about that?” Now he was pointing a different direction, toward Mt. Washington.
“Um, I think those are just condos?” I said, my tone the verbal embodiment of a shrug.
“And there’s a casino here, right?” he asked, like I was wearing some ASK ME ABOUT PGH sandwich board.
Now I felt like I was on some hidden camera quiz show.
I knew the general direction of the casino, so I felt like I was doing well, a lot better than the time the in-a-hurry businessman from NYC stopped to ask me where to catch a cab.
LOL, IN PITTSBURGH? Good luck.
Anyway, turns out this dude’s name is Adam and he came here from Vancouver for the dumb Steelers game which is tonight I guess, and I only know that because I accidentally walked to the dumb Heinz Field and got trapped in a mess of tents, some dumb THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL stage being set up, and people being excited about dumb football. This was actually where I was walking back from when I ran into Adam.
His friend’s flight wasn’t until later that afternoon, so he was killing some time by walking around the ‘Burgh when he ran into the city’s worst tour guide. He said that Pittsburgh was bigger than he thought (it’s small, you guys) and he thought it was “very nice.”
I did tell him about the incline on Mt. Washington though, because I do think that’s a thing that all visitors should do when they come here because who doesn’t like a good view of a city, you know? It’s our version of a sky tower, I guess. But Adam kept wanting to think that the track I was pointing to was steps, so he was like, “Oh OK and so you can walk up that hill…” and I was like, “NO IT IS LIKE A FUNNICULAR, ADAM, YOU RIDE ON IT, PLEASE TRY TO KEEP UP.”
It was almost as bad as the firsts time Bill & Jessi visited and Bill was 110% convinced that the Incline was literally someone’s house that drove up and down a hill all day long. I think he’s the one that I also had convinced was going to go super fast like a rollercoaster whenever we were about to board.
I might not be a verified tour guide, but I am a verified motherfucker.
Adam and I shook hands and I was starting to walk away when he called my name with urgency.
SHIT, PLEASE DON’T ASK ME THE NAMES OF THE RIVERS. PLEASE DON’T ASK ME THE NAMES OF THE RIVERS. I’LL HAVE TO PHONE A FRIEND AND THEN THEY’LL THINK SOMEONE DIED BECAUSE I NEVER PHONE A FRIEND.
“What’s that sandwich place that everyone here likes…?” he asked, and I laughed to myself because I was literally just telling my friend Kyoung from Korea about this that morning in our Kakao chat when we were talking about food that our cities are known for.
(Of course, his town is known for legit dishes and I’m like, “I dunno…a sandwich that comes topped with fries and coleslaw?”)
“Oh, Primanti’s,” I laughed knowingly, like it was some inside Yinzer joke but it’s not because Primanti’s has expanded to like, dumb Ohio so it’s not exactly a secret.
Of course then he wanted to know how to get there and I wasn’t sure if there is one in Heinz Field because I have never been there because I don’t like football or anything else that would ever happen there unless it’s like, The Cure or a Kpop festival which will likely never happen. So I gave him weird arm-twisty directions to the one in the Strip because I think that’s like, the original?
And then he asked me what I get when I go and I started cracking up big time because this guy has no idea what a half-assed Pittsburgher I am, man.
“Well, I don’t eat meat, so I would just get cheese. But other people, um, get ones with lots of meat, I think,” was my super convincing answer. And actually, I have only gone to Primanti’s twice in probably 20 years because it does nothing for me.
I came back from my walk and went straight to tell Todd about my encounter because he loves listening to stories about me awkwardly interacting with strangers, and I knew he would think it was even more special that the conversation was about Pittsburgh Things.
“Well, if you were really on a game show and the question was ‘Most Popular Primanti’s Sandwich,’ you’d probably want to say pastrami,” Todd said and honestly it’s been so long since I was in the meat game that I can’t even think of what pastrami is so that’s what Henry and I talked about last night when he picked me up from work: how pastrami is not Pâté (literally I was picturing a Primanti’s pâté sandwich and couldn’t understand why that would be the most popular?!) and how Adam picked the wrong motherfucker to get insider tourist tips.
Bonus “reporting from work” fodder:
I went to visit my old area today for some Chatty Time.
“I was thinking earlier about how Glenn used to choke all the time for attention. Does he still do that?” I asked, since I don’t sit over there anymore to keep track and also Glenn was gone for the day so I couldn’t ask him to his face.
“Yeah, but I don’t think he’s doing it for attention,” Todd said, in full White Knight regalia. “In fact, he was actually choking earlier and I thought to myself, at what point do I step in?”
“That’s because he eats peanuts!” I cried, not willing to give up any pity. “Look, he has a huge industrial-sized jar on his desk right now!”
“Are you talking about how Glenn is going to choke to death someday and I’m not going to know?” Lauren said, pivoting in her chair.
“Ugh, he totally fakes it!” I cried, and Todd was behind me shaking his head at the camera. “Remember that one time I asked him if I could NOT get him a glass of water?” I asked. CLASSIC ERIN.
“I always feel really bad when it happens!” Lauren said, because she is a good person.
“One time, I told him to stop because it was annoying me,” I said with a shrug, and Lauren was like, “ERIN OMG!” Hahaha, I’m the best.
They totally miss me sitting over there.