Friday, March 10

Lessons from a Small Town

1) Do NOT ever leave the house in sweats. A simple trip to the bank or to get milk can turn into a nightmare if you aren't dressed in something you'd like to be seen in. I have run into the President of my non-profit's board at the payment desk of my doctor's office. Because we live on a well-trafficked street, I can't even step out onto my porch to get my newspaper without trepidation.

2) Everyone is RELATED. If you're in a meeting and someone's name is mentioned, chances are that 1/3rd of the people in the room are related to him/her.

Corollary: 2a) People with the SAME NAME are rarely related. No matter that there are five businesses, a road, and a historic mill all with the same surname, they know nothing about them.

3) Be NICE. There's no big city anonymity here. If you say something snarky about the newspaper while at the diner, be prepared for the editor to be sitting in the next booth. If you criticize the theatre performance, it's a good chance you'll be overheard by the Executive Director of the sponsoring organization. And you'll be seeing these people over and over again for the rest of your life, so you really don't want to piss them off. They'll be the ones who decide whether you get a job or whether your non-profit gets a grant someday.

It's like the final episode of Seinfeld, where the Snarkastic Four get put in jail. It's starts because they jaywalked (which is Not Nice), then it just escalates because they don't understand the social mores. As surely as cynicism and irony are a successful coping strategy for isolated-among-11-million-people big city life, niceness is the grease that makes small-town life function.

More to come...


At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might want to read (or re-read) "Main Street" by Sinclair Lewis -- little has changed in the past 100 years. :)

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I experience that here as well. The “10 degrees of seperation” seems to be reduced to about 2. I’ve only lived here for 5 or 6 years but some friends of mine grew up here. I can mention some idiot store owner I had a problem with I may get a comment like, “He was an asshole in school too”.

At 4:20 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Oh yes, I know what you mean! Our town is really tiny (theater? ha!), and it takes less than 24 hours for any bit of gossip to make the rounds.

I don't have the trouble with the sweats, though. Somehow, I care less about Eutaw folks seeing me looking skanky ... maybe because everyone here works on their old houses. They understand why I'm covered with drywall dust!

At 4:36 PM, Blogger ben said...

The upside is that when you've built the relationships on niceness, there are people who will help you out in a pinch. Try keeping a tab at the big city hardware store, or borrowing a tool from someone you don't know. When rubbing shoulders in a small town, it's less about impressions and more about character.


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