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The real Scranton

Chris Hine | Friday, November 2, 2007

After I graduated from high school, I played one song to help get me through each day until I left my home near Scranton, Pa., to come to Notre Dame in the fall of 2005 – “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” by 1960s British rock group The Animals.

For a variety of reasons that song, which is about leaving a hellish hometown forever, became my personal anthem that summer. When I labored away at my summer job working in construction, I sang it to myself. When I came home from work I listened to it, and late at night when I couldn’t blast my stereo, I played it on the piano.

I thought Scranton and its surrounding area was a dreary place to live, kind of like the city “where the sun refused to shine.”

There’s really not that much to do in Scranton. You can go to the Steamtown or Wyoming Valley Mall and hang out with friends. You can go to the movies to hang out with friends, or you can go to another house – to hang out with friends. That’s about it. So, for a lot of teenagers, it’s a boring place to live.

On top of that, Scranton tends to be a static place. Our parents grew up there, their parents grew up there, and so did our grandparents’ parents. Not much changes. Everybody knows everybody. People stay where they are, which is fine for some people, but I knew that lifestyle wasn’t for me.

When I started my first semester at Notre Dame, I missed my family very much, but I didn’t miss the place I lived.

But then “The Office” came back on television. I watched the first season during my senior year of high school because of its Scranton setting. (And because it stars the funniest man alive, Steve Carell). I was able to get some of my friends hooked on the season one DVD and so we all started watching season two together at Notre Dame. Whenever a character would mention the Steamtown Mall, or a restaurant I’ve been to in Scranton, I always found myself excitedly blurting out, “Hey, I’ve been there before.” I discovered I had a pride for the Scranton area that I never knew existed. And when Observer Assistant Scene Editor Cassie Belek came to town for “The Office Convention” last week and asked me to show her the “sights of Scranton,” I felt that pride even more.

I make fun of Scranton a lot for being a boring place to live, and so do the people that live there, but underneath the bravado lies that welcoming feeling of home.

Like the character Jim Halpert, who finally is dating his long-time love interest, Pam Beesely, I discovered Scranton, much like every other place, isn’t such a bad place to live if you have people you love there with you. Scranton is where we grew up. It’s where our friends and family are. Going to the movies, the mall or a minor league hockey game isn’t so boring anymore if you truly appreciate the friends and family that are there with you.

So when I’m forcing my friends to listen to the oldies station the next time I’m home on break, and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” comes on the radio, I think I’ll change the station.