But even as an avowed city dweller who loves swimming through people-stew every day, I still find myself sometimes taking the back alleys.
I love living in the city, but sometimes I just want to quietly walk from here to there. I don't want to be asked if I have time for Greenpeace ("not today" is my guilt-free brush-off) or deal with the glazed, traumatized people smoking cigarettes outside the hospital around the corner. I love my neighbors, but I don't always want to chat about the new paint job on our building or how great Cindy's garden is looking.
Sometimes I take the back alleys because I'm rushing to dance class, wearing stretch pants covered in dog hair and last night's eye-crust. Call me vain, but I like to put my best foot forward — and when I'm wearing my Danskos instead of my Fluevogs, I don't always want to run into that former coworker or potential client. Sometimes I just want to scuttle down the middle of the alley like a filthy fitness crab, heading to dancechurch.
Sometimes I don't have the energy to deal with the passive-aggressive cluster-fuck that is Seattleite eye contact. We have no idea what to do with ourselves when crossing paths with someone on a sidewalk, and so the general rule is to look away (eyes cast down! smart phone! cars that might be passing!) or perhaps give a tight, awkward smile that says "Oh hey, I'm not staring at you. Yeah, hi. Uh. I mean bye? Ok, uh, whew: that's over." Sometimes I just want to walk with my head up and smile, without worrying about anyone else.
Sometimes I'm doing something semi-illicit (picking underwear out of butt, sipping from flask, having quick smoke) and doing so walking down a busy sidewalk would make me feel like a brazen scofflaw. Sometimes I want to struggle quietly by myself as I untangle the angry worm orgy that is my knotted headphones. Sometimes I just need a fucking dumpster to put dog poo in.
I love living in the city and hope to continue living in the city in some capacity for the rest of my life. But that doesn't change the fact that sometimes you need to carve out a quiet country road for yourself, even in the middle of an urban area. Alleys give me the privacy I need, in the city bath that I love.