Ahh…the middle of nowhere…
Okay, that’s the wrong description…especially for someone who enjoys the pace of life in smaller towns.
Now, look — I grew up in L.A. The pace and crowding and insanity of that kind of place is something with which I am intimately familiar, so trust me when I tell you this: I hate big cities. They are the plague. They are the purest evil in the universe.
If some race of super-intelligent, super-powerful aliens came to Earth and demanded to scoop out and take New York, My response would be simple: “Have at it!” No haggling, nothing expected in return, they could just take that shithole — err, “place” — as a tip…as a little something-extra for coming all that way just to visit us…
But even I lose track of what life can be like sometimes.
Let me paint you a picture…I’m sitting here, typing this post in small-town Montana. When folks around here talk about going “to the big city”, they are talking about freaking Bozeman, for God’s sake, which is no one’s idea of a bustling metropolis. Hell, the coffee shop in which I had breakfast yesterday had more ATVs and four-wheelers parked in front than actual cars.
So, today, I stopped for gas before going to lunch. A normal gas station, with a normal convenience store, just off the highway. Great, everything pretty standard and expected, so far…except that my credit card is old, and its magnetic strip has pretty much given up the ghost as far as functionality is concerned, and it refuses to work in the pump’s reader. Oh well, shit happens. I’ll just go inside and pay.
As soon I walk through the door, I get a wave and a call from the woman behind the counter, “Don’t worry about it, honey. Just pump and come pay when you’re done!”
Wait…what? What the hell?!
The L.A.-raised part of me started to look for the scam, went instantly to DEFCON-1 on the ol’ suspicion-meter…
Another smile, and another wave, from the lady — presumably for the slow, slightly stupid moron starting blankly at her — and I went back outside to pump my gas. Before paying for it.
Before paying for it.
Let me say that again: before I fucking paid for it!
Think about that for a minute.
If I had tried to do that same thing back in L.A., I would’ve been face down on the ground, with the business-end of a pistol pressed against the back of my head, before I so much as got my gas-cap unscrewed. If I was very, very lucky that gun might even have been held a real cop…or if I was very, very unlucky. It depends on who you ask.
In the world of small towns, however, where folks are still human?
We’ve lost so much of ourselves in our mad rush to concentrate and urbanize. We’ve lost that sense of community, and of brotherhood — not to sound too hippy — that is what made us what we are…that is also what could make us what we should be.
“Go outside an play. I don’t want to see you back in this house until the streetlights come on!”
“Don’t worry about the money, just take the gas can now, then pay for everything when you come back.”
“Naw, I’m not gonna write a ticket. Just slow down a bit and watch out for the cows…”
We watch it in movies, we read about it in stories and articles…but usually there is that (inevitable) overtone of superiority, of patronizing indulgence, from those “betters” who have spent just a day or two in a small town, and who want to use that experience to highlight what really matters to them: New York, or L.A., or London…
There is nothing on the face of this planet more fundamentally insulting than patronizing superiority, by the way. That unspoken sense that someone is “better” because they “get to” go home to a 500 square-foot box costing $2,000 a month…that the reality of “the rest” is somehow less. Less valuable, less important, less real than theirs, just because they have 30 million “neighbors”….
Once again, all I really to say is: *sigh*
I could talk about my waitress at lunch, about the fact that she was one of the best I’ve ever had. Hell, I could talk, even, about the fact that she could make far more as a cocktail waitress in a “real” city.
I could talk about all that, but I won’t. Frankly, I don’t particularly want to roll around in the pigsty of recrimination and criticism that going deeper into this subject would bring. There’s a cigar bar right down the road, and I have better things to do…
Besides, what are fiction novels for, if not to take the foolishness and flaws of our society and make them a part fo the story?!