New park benches

11 Jun

This was the sight that greeted me this morning on Maylo’s walk:

new park benches_2015-06-11

And true to form I was immediately a bit sad at the passing of the old benches and contemplative about what the change really means. Some may say that I’m reading too much into it, but I see the new style of bench as a response to two not very positive changes in Vienna over the last five years or so.

Change #1: A year or two ago I noticed that benches were disappearing from the parks. My assumption is that they were being stolen (they usually disappeared overnight) and that the new benches are a countermeasure. Understandable.

Change #2: There are more and more (homeless) people sleeping in the parks. The Austrian social system used to provide so well that you saw very few. All kinds of factors–including budget cuts and immigration–are contributing to a larger population of homeless. It may not be so visible in the photo, but the new benches are quite a bit shorter than the old benches. This, of course, makes it harder for people to sleep on them. I have very mixed feelings about that.

When changes like this come I think about the movie “You’ve Got Mail”, specifically the scene where Kathleen Kelly’s bookstore has finally succumbed to the Fox Books megastore and she is waxing philosophical about it. She says something like, “Some people would say it is an tribute to the greatness of this city, how it keeps reinventing itself, but the truth is my heart is broken. Something I loved is gone and no one can ever make it right.”

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