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Loneliness: How One Newcomer Is Coping

SAN DIEGO: CITY OF STRANGERS: Second in a series examining the problems of high mobility and its effect on the individual. Today's theme: Loneliness.

May 20, 1986

David Duff, 34, mechanical engineer for General Dynamics, Convair division:

"I just moved here from Cleveland, got here Jan. 11, been here about four months. I heard about GD (General Dynamics) at a job fair in Washington, D.C. Got a call and came out. My impressions so far? Very favorable. I like San Diego. I don't have . . . major complaints.

"Really, it's a fascinating experience. The weather is pleasant, and it's the kind of city that just fuels a passion for sailing--a passion I have. It's a very compact city--you can get from one place to another in almost no time. You can't say that about Cleveland, Philadelphia or Detroit. You can be downtown at the corner of 4th and F and be in La Jolla in 15 minutes. That's incredible. In Cleveland, 15 minutes won't get you anywhere.

"I'm single, and the key thing is missing family and friends. I was born in Cleveland, lived most of my days there. Most of my friends live there. I didn't have my bags packed--I didn't want to leave Cleveland so much as I wanted a job. A good one. I think I have one.

"To get one--here, there, anywhere--is a matter of rebuilding a life. You take the little things for granted--the store you used to go to, the TV station back home, a person . . . When you move, you put 30% of your energy into getting things done, into finding new activities.

"Fortunately, I have made friends. I've been fairly active in sailboat racing and belong to a number of national organizations. There's something in common with people like that--a base to build on. . . .

"You know, I expected to really have my eyes opened out here. People back East told me to be shocked by people's attitudes--the way they conduct their lives. I think a good bit (of the resentment) is that this area is growing, and back East, it is still real depressed. The recession struck in the early '80s, and those areas just haven't recovered. Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania--all have very high exit rates. If you're in an area going nowhere, why not get the hell out? Why not crow about the future in an area like L.A. or San Diego? The future is here.

"Staying and helping out the Rust Belt, that kind of thing never occurred to me. Why sacrifice yourself for the sake of community? Sure, I believe in community. I believe in the investment of commitment. But survival is No. 1.

"Like I said, man, I liked Cleveland. I like skiing and sailing and seeing old friends. But opportunities for the work I do--they were here.

"I've had spells--homesickness, loneliness, whatever you want to call it. But none were severe enough to give second thoughts. Definitely some blue times, no question about that. I can see, though, why some people bury themselves in work. It's a good way of getting over the culture shock, the adjustment pains.

"I've met a few people out here who have made--how should I say it?--some remarks. They say (San Diego) was nice the way it was. It gives you this feeling of impending doom--like maybe it's an L.A. in the making.

"You'd like to feel you're welcome, but those remarks . . . Hey, man, they can temper your enthusiasm."

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