Denver Diaries: What are Denverites like… really?

I noted in a post on Monday that I hear the “a” word being hurled quite a bit since I arrived in Denver. I heard it twice more from drivers while covering events downtown. A delegate was walking against the light and a driver who was apparently in a hurry, nonetheless took the time to assess the delegate’s anatomy. Our rental van has Texas plates and the people who drive it say they’ve been the target of an “a-bomb” or two.

What gives, Denver? Are those real Denverites? Is that the spirit of Denver? Or is there a difference between those who drive and people you might run into on the ground. I haven’t been here long enough to know and despite what you may have read in a local weekly that has an off-and-on relationship with accuracy, I’m not prepared to judge an entire population on the anecdotal evidence.

Just consider these as data points and see if, maybe, the Twin Cities can strive to make our guests feel welcomed next week.

I’ve found the volunteers to be predictably helpful and friendly. They’re supposed to be. And, besides, I’ve got a press credential around my neck. And even the cops have been friendly. On Monday, however, I spent some time “undercover.”

I posted myself at several corners for 15 minutes at a time, with a map unfurled, scratching my head, and looking as helpless and lost as I possibly could, to see if anyone would say, “can I help you find something?” I also counted the number of people who walked by me during my time as the country bumpkin.

Seven-hundred-17 people walked by me, and none volunteered to assist the more distressed elderly man I was — quite fictionally, mind you — portraying. Are you getting this, St. Paul?

But here’s the kicker. About an hour after that, I was on my way to an appointment near the Denver mint. I was no longer “pretending” to be lost. I really was. I took out my map, and looked up to check the street signs. A young couple walked past me, then turned and walked back to me.

“Can I help you find something?” he asked.

I’ll bet if he were in a car, he’d even let me cross against the light.

  • Alison

    I wonder what the responses would have been like if you had asked for directions instead of waiting for someone to offer. I generally ask lost looking people if they need help, but I’m not sure about the rest of Minnesotans.

  • JohnnyZoom

    I recognize this may come off as little more than a potshot (and it’s not meant to be), but think for a second Bob. Might your conflicting experiences being “lost” say more about your acting ability than anything else?

    Anyway, keep up the good work in Denver.

  • Alison

    Do you suppose gender had anything to do with it? You know, the whole men don’t ask for directions thing.

  • Bob Collins

    My theory is that most of the locals aren’t downtown; they’ve cleared out. And that 99% of the people downtown aren’t from here. And perhaps the folks driving cars — and all of the offenders were guys — were from here.

    That’s why I tend to strike up conversations with people on the light-rail line (a lot of the media here takes the special shuttle buses that the delegates take. They have no chance of meeting real people.), who I find very friendly and informative. One invited me out for a beer, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

    As for my acting ability, JohnnyZoom, it was — as you surmised — my first acting gig since Miss Rosenbaum’s 7th grade class in which I played a defendant in a court case who is shot during his testimony.

    I wowed ’em, though, when I grabbed my head. They didn’t know I was holding a handful of ketchup.

    It was all very impressive, but I still didn’t get a date to the prom.

    So, I think you’re on to something.

  • Bob Collins

    alison, I’m sure I would’ve gotten directions if I’d asked, but that wasn’t really the experiment. I think the true mark of friendliness and helpfulness is not waiting until someone asks you something.

    I realize it’s not the Minnesota character to jump out with offers of help unsolicited. However, it may be the difference between sending people home from MSP and having them talk about how friendly Minnesota is vs. having them talk about how there’s nothing in the skyways of St. Paul. (g)

    Friendliness is probably the best thing we’ve got going for us. I suggest we all load up on it.

  • JohnnyZoom

    >>They have no chance of meeting real people.

    LOL! I was going to add that, wouldn’t that apply to those at the convention itself, when I remembered you had spots on some of the delegates, and duly noted they were real people.

    Anyway, I have been to Denver several times and have my own impressions of what Denverites are like. As a formality, I’ll keep them to myself for now. But I’d be interested in comparing notes after your stay winds down. Interesting speculations about where the locals are, however…

  • Bob Collins

    JohnnyZoom, I do think the delegates I talked to are real people, but the way things are structured, you could stay in the delegate hotel (I’m not), get on the shuttle bus, get inside the perimeter, get inside the arena, and reverse the process later, and never get a taste of Denver (or Minneapolis St. Paul, for that matter).

    One thing that is certain, though, is that delegates seem to be “doing their own thing” more than in past conventions when they were, in fact, led around as a single group.

    Yesterday, I saw a lot of delegates downtown, even though the cdonvention had started. Too bad they missed the rules committee report. (g)

    One other notes, we’re in the ‘burbs, probably 10 miles out of Denver. A restaurant I was at last night reported ZERO impact from the convention. So unless you’re a business right in downtown Mineapolis or St. Paul (or are not named the Mall of America), I wouldn’t get my hopes up of feeling any monetary benefit of next week’s event.

  • Alison

    I tend to offer help to quite a few lost looking people and hopefully other Minnesotans do the same. I ask about gender because I noticed something about those who ask me for help finding their way. I’m transgendered and it seems that more people ask me for directions when I’m out as a woman than when I’m out as a man (and at first glance you can’t really tell, and no, I don’t make a particularly attractive woman).

  • Bob Collins

    We’re even then, alison. I don’t make a particularly attractive man.

  • Alison

    Neither do I. It would be nice to look good one way or the other. Oh well. I suppose the nice part about radio is that it really doesn’t matter how you look unless you’re the star of the station who makes it on the billboard.

  • Allen

    Not sure how you’re managing to encouter these Denver drivers. Here in Denver even in rush hour it’s common to be in the fast lane and not exceed the speed limit. How many times in the twin towns can you do that versus all the cars going 15-20 over the speed limit?

    Denver’s pretty laid back. Dressing up means wearing a new pair of blue jeans.

  • Bob Collins

    Surface streets downtown. The freeway, as near as I can tell, zips along pretty good.

    If you sit in the fast lane and go 55 (or 65 or 70) in the Twin Cities? Well, see “bomb, A” . (g)

    I haven’t seen the laid back part. I was walking on Clinton Ave to the light rail station this afternoon at rush hour and there was a line to turn right in a yield lane. Four cars wer elined up.

    And SUV comes along, stops, then backs up… goes straight to the red light and then turns right, cutting off the guy waiting for a chance to sneak onto the road.

    Maybe he was in a hurry to get down to Colfax?(g)

    When are they going to put light rail out to the airport, Allen?