five rules of small-town life

There is not one traffic light
in any town north of Campbell River.
1. Don't be in a rush.

Everything takes time. Everyone has time. You have time, too. You might have to wait while people finish chatting. No matter. You have time.

2. Don't try to make plans.

People stop by. They want you to stop by. Or you can wait for them to come 'round. They will.

3. Don't be too picky.

Everything you need is here. It might not be exactly what you had in mind, but does the difference really matter? If it does, there's the internet, and you can wait. But generally you have a few choices. That's enough.

4. Don't say too much.

People will ask. They are genuinely interested. Share a story. They will genuinely appreciate it. No need to go on at length. A short story will do. Don't say more than you want to, because whatever you say, everyone will know.

5. Don't talk about other people.

Everyone knows each other.

* * * *

The small-town norm that is most divergent with big-city life, in my view, is about stopping by. In cities, you never stop by. It would be an intrusion. It's considered disrespectful of other people's time. Even trying to plan one week ahead can cause resentment.

I'm not saying that no one in our small town makes advance plans. Certainly professionals plan ahead, make appointments, have meetings. If I'm planning a visit to one of my libraries in another town, I give people a heads-up, so we can meet if they're available.

But stopping by is expected. It's welcomed. It's considered friendly.


allan said...

I love the fact that I can (as I did earlier this month) get in the car, drive to the pharmacy and request a prescription refill, drive to the hardware store and buy a roll of wire fencing, walk over to see if the liquor store is open (it wasn't), drive to the post office and check our mail, drive to the grocery store and do one of the week's shoppings, drive back to the liquor store and (it was open now) buy some wine, drive back to the pharmacy and pick up the prescription that was filled, and then drive home -- ALL IN UNDER AN HOUR! Without rushing.

The Mound of Sound said...

This is off-topic but I was wondering whether you're getting the first whiffs of wildfire season up there. It's faint but still discernible here in mid-island.

Edmonton and Calgary are blanketed but out here we usually rely on the prevailing westerlies to keep our air clean.

laura k said...

Nope, nothing here.

impudent strumpet said...

I'm going to have to stalk your town on google maps and figure out what Allan's errands route looks like, because I'm having trouble imagining doing those errands in under an hour AND with driving.

I can totally do that quantity of errands in under an hour in my neighbourhood on foot (I don't have a hardware store, but if you replaced it with something else in the neighbourhood it would work), but I couldn't drive them because they're too close, e.g. you can't drive across the street, it would be ridiculous to drive half a block, etc.

But it's that closeness that makes it possible to do them in under an hour - if they were far enough away to drive (even to make a short drive logical), it would take more than an hour.

(I can't extrapolate from the small town of my childhood because when I was a child all errands took literally forever and time had no meaning.)

laura k said...

Well here's the thing. In an urban village, if you live in a well-served neighbourhood (as you do), you can do all your errands in a block or two, on foot. You have to be willing and physically able to do errands on foot, and in my experience, you have to do those errands more frequently, because you're limited by what you can carry. Hence daily (or almost daily) shopping for dinner that you're going to make that night, etc. Nothing wrong with that if it suits you, but it's inefficient, and many people are physically unable to do that.

I've also lived in urban settings that were not well-served, where you had to walk greater distances and shlep on public transit or push a cart (or both). It's difficult and inconvenient, and most people in these neighbourhoods don't own cars and it can be a real struggle just to accomplish the basics.

In a suburban setting where you have to drive everywhere, you tend to stock up, and do your shopping for the week, or maybe one big shopping and one smaller, fill-in shopping. You have to do this by car, but very few people would do this daily.

Here in our small town, we can't really accomplish our errands on foot. The "downtown" is only 5 minutes away by car -- I can walk to work -- but we couldn't carry bags of groceries for a week for two people on a 20 minute walk. We do all our errands by car, but all the stores are in the same place, so we can zip from one to the next, in and out.

In Mississauga these same errands would entail traffic, parking in large lots, waiting in crowded stores. Just the driving, parking, walking to the store, walking back to the car, and getting out of the parking lot could easily take 10-15 minutes. Do that for 3 or 4 stops, plus shopping in huge stores and a lot of waiting -- it really adds up.

Does that make more sense? We can't compare living in Port Hardy to living at Yonge & Eg, because we never lived in a neighbourhood like that, even in NYC. We're comparing living in PH to living in Mississauga.