There is a fantastic little triangular park bounded by Massachusetts Avenue, 17th and C Streets SE, complete with a playground, views of exquisitely painted rowhouses and the most uncomfortable damn benches in the world.
Our society seems overly concerned with homeless people sleeping on benches, to the point that we make our benches so uncomfortable that nobody, homeless or home-rich, wants to use them. This park, which is by far the chill zone to where I live, is rendered basically useless by this outdoor furniture. The green space is so tiny that the only safe adult activity possible is sitting. Unfortunately, the city is not concerned with facilitating a comfortable seat for us.
Benches without backs aren’t really benches, are they? Merriam Webster calls it “a long seat for two or more persons.” I guess. I, like Sir Mix-A-Lot, like my benches with back. I assume most others do too; I have never seen anyone sitting on these steel monstrosities in this park. I tried recently — I can’t recommend it.
Back when I lived in Eastern Market, our local joint was Marion Park at 6th and E SE, a great little oasis amid a sea of interesting architecture and one haphazardly maintained police substation. This park was outfitted with the classic wooden bench variety. But then, during an ill-fated renovation that resulted in dead grass and unusable green space, the benches were also replaced, with the variety depicted at the left, also found in the vibrant Lincoln Park. Basically, your standard wooden bench but with an iron bar (“armrest”) in the middle, preventing canoodling, snuggling, sleeping and anything that might be construed as relaxing.
Of course, within a couple weeks of the new, uncomfortable bench’s installation, I sighted a rough-looking individual in Marion Park — possibly homeless but let us not judge. Turns out these new uncomfortable seats work. The dude was sleeping — but not on a bench.
He was snoozing on the most comfortable part of the park. The ground.