Bethesda Metro Station

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I’ve never lived in Bethesda. Growing up in Silver Spring, I relished the rivalry (real or imagined) we have with our friends across Rock Creek Park.
So when I took Bainbridge Bethesda’s “How Bethesda are you?” quiz, I fully expected the answer to be, “Not at all.”
Eight questions later, I was horrified to discover that I was “Bethesda to the MAX!” A little photo popped up of a woman using a MacBook Pro on a park bench, next to a bag from Whole Foods. “Your skin oozes pure Bethesda,” said the quiz. “When someone looks up “Bethesda” in the dictionary, they’ll see a picture of your face.”
How could this be? I did, in fact, go to Whole Foods last night, and I am writing this on a MacBook Pro. But many of us living in Silver Spring pride ourselves on being the opposite of Bethesda, or at least of the Bethesda stereotype: rich, privileged, entitled.

In fact, I started a blog about Silver Spring eight years ago because of my experiences riding the packed J Metrobus to Bethesda, where I interned at an architecture firm that designed teardown McMansions.
Later, I worked at Gifford’s and would joke with my non-Bethesda coworkers about the ridiculous customers who’d pay $4 for a scoop of ice cream. Whenever I met someone who went to Whitman High School, I would say, “I forgive you.”
Who was I, if totally not Bethesda to the MAX?
Of course, this is just a fun survey by an apartment building whose interest is to assure potential renters that yes, they are very Bethesda, so they’ll feel a little better about shelling out two grand a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
The questions are, naturally, kind of vague. “Do you shop at Lululemon?” (No.) Have you ever “exercised on the crescent trail [sp] at least once”? (Yes, but I probably won’t do it again until the Purple Line is built and it’s extended to Silver Spring.) “Quick, pick a dog.” (I picked the one resting his head on a pillow.)
But it got me thinking: Perhaps there are more similarities between Bethesda and Silver Spring than I thought. Both are unfairly maligned for having too many chain stores. Both have, at some point, been home to the headquarters of the Discovery Channel. Both have a Whole Foods (high-brow) and a Tastee Diner (low-brow). Both have excellent pollo a la brasa.
And both are snobby in their own way. Just as some folks in Bethesda might judge me for living in Silver Spring, we’re judging them right back. I guess that means I am pretty Bethesda after all.
Dan Reed is an urban planner who grew up in Montgomery County and remembers eating Gifford’s ice cream before it was on Bethesda Row. He sits on the board of Action Committee for Transit, an organization dedicated to sustainable transportation in Montgomery County. He also writes at Just Up The Pike, a blog about Silver Spring, and Greater Greater Washington, a regional blog about planning. 

Flickr photo by RK & Tina