The Trouble with Small Towns
A few weeks ago, hell froze over, pigs flew, and the Curmudgeon moved to a small town. To be accurate, I'd say it's more of a medium-small town. I’ve seen smaller. But compared to New York, its population density is roughly that of a ghost town. The exact location and reasons for moving here aren’t pertinent to today’s discussion. Let it suffice to say I didn’t do it intentionally. While I have occasionally (this stays off the record) managed to enjoy brief visits to small towns, I have long vowed never to live in one. And yet . . . here I am.
The trouble started almost instantly. Upon discovering an error in the processing of my change of address, I notified the United States Postal Service via their website. A few days later I got a phone call . . . . from a person . . . at the local post office—a real person, mind you—asking me to clarify the issue and promising to correct it. What is this, 1949? I didn’t have to press one, then seven, then recite my account number and the last four digits of my Social Security number, then hold for eleven-and-a-half hours. I didn’t even have to call. He called me. And he was calling from the local post office, where he works. And he wanted to help. It was jarring and confusing in the extreme. Before ending the call, the unsettlingly attentive gentleman asked where I’d moved from. When I said New York, he responded, “Oh boy. That may cause a bit of a delay.”
Strolling the streets, I found I was being greeted by strangers—something that would raise more than a bit of concern were it to happen in New York City. Suspiciously, I’d wave back, wondering what they wanted from me, only to see them pass by contentedly and without incident.
My wife and I stopped by a great restaurant in town and ordered dinner to go. The owner came out to greet us by name. “No need to wait," he said, "I’ll drop it off at your house on my way home.” He didn’t need the address, because knew where we lived.
The attendant at the DMV apologized for how busy things were the day I visited. I’d been there for five minutes and waited for exactly one person to finish up.
A few days ago, I saw a horse . . . a horse. It wasn’t being ridden by a police officer, nor was it pulling a carriage full of tourists through a park. It wasn’t at a rodeo or at a circus. It was just standing there, in a field, just sort of . . . hanging out. I should mention I was mere blocks from my new domicile at the time. I watched it graze for a full ten minutes.
Just this morning, I stood barefoot on dewy grass listening to birds cawing and singing, serenading the neighborhood from their various trees as I watched squirrels frolicking and a yawning neighborhood cat enjoying a patch of sun.
And I found myself . . . I can barely bring myself to say it . . . content.
I shudder just having typed the word. I need hardly explain why this is problematic. It isn’t simply that I am unaccustomed to this frame of mind. It is that I am suddenly and unexpectedly faced with a very real threat: some time in the not-too-distant future, I could run out of things with which to find fault. Because it’s really nice here . . . damn it. I thought at the very least I’d encounter backwards and slow-witted locals, a maddening lack of activities, unbearable quiet. But no, none of those things proved to be true. It turns out that smaller-town life is disappointingly blissful.
I hope by this point you’ve begun to feel at least a shred of sympathy for my circumstances—for this undeserved hardship that has come upon me. I am stranded, with little-to-no source of aggravation. I'm miles away from the ignorant, selfish imbeciles singing loudly and badly along with whatever is being piped through their ear buds as they attempt to barge past exiting subway passengers. I am completely cut off from classless theatre-going tourists I can lecture as they attempt to walk out during a curtain call. Where are the jerks, the loudmouths, the poorly mannered hordes in need of correction?
And if this happiness persists, what the hell will the Curmudgeon write about in months to come? Trouble growing my petunias? I have committed myself to delivering weekly complaints, gripes, beefs, rants, diatribes, tirades, and harangues. These current conditions are not conducive to my sworn duty to point out the annoying misbehavior of others.
You see? This is why I can’t stand living in a small town. It’s ruining my whole mood.