A Not So Typical Day

March 18, 2008 was not a typical day for me. Well, not for the most part at least. Over the course of my day I did perform typical activities like showering, brushing my teeth, and eating meals, but I did these things in Martinsville, VA and Greensboro, NC. This is somewhat of a departure from my usual location in Williamsburg, VA. I was with the William and Mary Choir on our annual Spring, which began on March 14th and took us up to Maryland and then back down through Virginia to North Carolina. Our days generally consisted of many long bus rides, vocal rehearsals, and choral concerts. By the time each day was through, everyone was sufficiently exhausted and usually went straight to bed upon arriving at the house of a host family. March 18th was the fifth and final full day of our journey and it proved to be another day of travel, exploration, and, of course, singing.
On the morning of March 18th, I woke up in Martinsville, VA. The choir had a concert the night before at Patrick Henry Community College and I had stayed in the Martinsville area with a host family. I skipped breakfast, feeling much to tired to eat. I opted for a cup of coffee instead. Our host mother drove myself and three other women back to Patrick Henry Community College where we had performed the night before. We waited along with several other choir members for the buses to arrive, which happened around 9:50 am. By 10:07 we were on the road to Greensboro. Looking out the window occasionally I noticed that we were traveling on NC 250, a state road that ran north to south. The bus ride lasted about an hour and a half, and I slept through most of it. The bus stopped in a parking lot in downtown Greensboro at 11:23 and everyone trooped off the bus to look around and grab a bite to eat. My group of friends and I headed down S. Elm Street in search of a restaurant that would not be too crowded. On the way we passed by an old Woolworth’s store. The site caught my attention owing to the fact that I did not think there were any Woolworth’s stores still open in the U.S. Upon closer examination I found that the store was closed, but that it was the site of the famous Greensboro lunch counter sit in. I gleefully pointed this out to my companions who shared in my interest, albeit not as enthusiastically. We continued down S. Elm until we decided to turn left onto Whittington St. We went a block and then turned left again this time onto Arlington St. We saw an establishment called Martini’s, and the entire group being of age, we decided this would be a lovely place for lunch. One of our group went over to investigate, but we disappointingly found that it was only open for dinner. We continued for another block on Arlington, and then took yet another left onto E. McCulloch St. This took us back close to where we had started on S. Elm. The group decided to investigate a brew pub called Natty Greene’s but found that it was rather crowded. Fortunately, there was a restaurant next door named Grey’s that had plenty of open seating. We proceeded inside, finally sat down for lunch around 12:05 pm. Being rather lazy, the group decides to stay at the restaurant until the buses are set to return at 2:50. At around 2:45 we exit the restaurant, and I see my choir little standing with some friends up the street. I go to greet her and then we walk back to the buses and arrive on time at 2:50. We all load the buses and pull out of the parking lot by about 3:10 pm. The church is right down the street so we arrive there in a matter of minutes. I get off the bus, pick up my bags, and head inside to the church’s sanctuary. We are then led to a room where the women can change, and at 4:00 we return to the sanctuary to practice. Following our practice we go to eat dinner in what appears to be the gym/fellowship hall for the church at 5:30. I stay there until about 6:15 and then head down to the ladies bathroom and then back to the changing room. At 8:00 we move to the sanctuary where the choir gives a performance that lasts about an hour. Following the performance I go change out of my choir uniform and then come back to the sanctuary to meet my host family for the night. We headed out to their car and departed the church for their house around 9:15 pm. Once there, I immediately got ready for bed, opting to take a shower in the morning. I was in bed by the early hour of 10:00 pm.
Mapping my movements definitely made me more cognizant of my surroundings and actions. I found myself paying attention to street names and buildings, especially in down town Greensboro. The city was unfamiliar to me. Although I had driven through the suburbs a couple of times, I had never actually been to the down town area. When I arrived I had no idea of how to visualize the city. When I walk around Williamsburg I have a general image in my mind about where certain places are in relation to one another. In Greensboro I did not have this luxury. I found that the easiest way to keep track of my location in relation to others was to take note of streets. Luckily our group did not wander far, so I did not have the opportunity to become to incredibly mixed up. Although I was unsure of Greensboro’s geography, being a visitor gave me an advantage because I was more aware of my surroundings. The scenery was not mundane for me, as might be the case for people who traverse the area often. I noticed this most when I came upon the Woolworth’s store. I became very excited to see a place that played such an important role in American history. However, I could see that the locals around me were not as impressed with the building. I realized that these people probably pass by the store everyday. In the midst of their daily routine the site has become commonplace. This made me recognize that places have different meaning for different people. There are countless historical sites in Williamsburg that thousands of visitors come to see each year, but I see them so often that I hardly think twice about them.
Another thing I pondered while doing this assignment was space and representation. This especially came into play when I arrived at the Presbyterian Church. Up until that point most of the locations I went to were sufficiently spread out, and I usually performed a different activity at each one I went to. When I got to the church my quarters were much more confined and I found that I often went to the same place multiple times. For example, I only included one of my bathroom visits on my map of the Presbyterian church, but I actually visited the bathroom three times while there. I found that it would be difficult, and perhaps insignificant, to chart my repeated visits to the location. I had problems in general trying to convey my path around the church building because it overlapped so often. I could only fit so many trial lines in a small space, so I omitted some of my more boring actions. Of course, this made me think about the activities that I consider to be “boring”. I omitted some of my bathroom visits because they took place more than once. Would I have done the same for something else, or would I have recorded it each time? I also visited the same bathroom each time. Would I have recorded each visit if I had used different bathrooms in the building every time? While I deemed these exclusions to be necessary, one could argue that their absence compromises the accuracy of my map. It also reveals that I excluded these occurrences for the sake of spatial clutter and difficulty in representation. Perhaps I should have devised a different visual system to represent my actions in this smaller space. Regardless, this exercise made me think about how space influences my perception of my daily activities. Also, being in a new space revealed to me the things in my day that remain the same. Perhaps I did not document my bathroom use (sorry to keep bringing this up, hehe) because I find the task to be so everyday that I no longer find it noteworthy. While this may be somewhat of an absurd observation I think it sheds some light on how I assess value. I included those events that most stuck out in my mind as they were occurring and that I deemed to be the most important to my day. Even though I tried my best to document my movements, perhaps I did some things or went some place that I completely failed to notice. That notion, and this assignment on the whole, triggers me to think about the many places and events I miss when I am not trying to consciously document them.


About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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