Saturday, July 25, 2009

Small Town Moments

Whether you live in a small town, city, subdivision, or whatever, it can be easy to forget that not everyone lives the same way you do. Changing from one to another, though? That'll bring it home but quick. And every now and again, I still have what I generally term "Gambier moments," although I suspect they crop up in a lot of little rural towns.

Our first Gambier moment occurred just after we moved into our house. The previous owners had left their lawn tractor in the barn so that they could keep up with the mowing during the year the house was on the market. Once we bought the place, Ed came by with their pickup, to retrieve the mower, only to discover that he'd forgotten to bring a ramp. We didn't have any lumber around either (having lived here for less than 72 hours), so there was no way to load the lawnmower in the back of the pickup. His solution? Drive the mower to their new house in Mount Vernon, just under 6 miles away, and have his wife drive him back to get the truck that evening.

Your average riding mower tops out at about 4mph, and this particular mower was easily 20 years old. Sturdy - possibly indestructible - but not exactly a high-powered vehicle. This was going to take him well over an hour, on what would normally have been 55mph roads, and he didn't think anything of it. I was so bewildered, I actually called Joe at work to inform him, in case there was any doubt left in his mind, that we were now unquestionably living in the country.

Many Gambier moments revolve around our tiny population. The 2000 Census tallied 1871 people, and roughly 1500 of those would have been Kenyon students, not full-time residents. Everyone tends to know everyone else, by face or by name, if not both. In part because of this, a surprising number of houses are perpetually referred to by the names of their previous owners. I don't actually know yet when the statute of limitations is up and the house gets to have your name, but I know folks who are still living in "the old Smith house" even though Professor Smith left the college over ten years ago. The collective Village memory still clings to those old names.

A dear friend who recently moved back to town after many years away had her own Gambier moment in the Post Office. Since we do not have home mail delivery (hear that Internet retailers? My home address really IS the post office box, honest!), the PO is central to daily life in the Village. My friend, having been in town all of 72 hours, was stopping through the PO with her daughters to check their box, when she heard someone address her 10-year-old by name. After a moment of confusion, she realized that her daughter had met a neighbor or two that she hadn't yet.

Of course, the people who run the Post Office (and the bookstore, and the coffee place, and the Market) know us all. Some friends once sent us a Christmas card to

Joe Murphy and Alison Furlong
Gambier, OH
We Love the Gambier Post Office!!!
It got to us. On time. It's that kind of place.

What's your "small town moment?"

3 people have weighed in:

Jeanne held forth

When I first moved from the D.C. area to the small town right next to Gambier, I went to Kroger with some friends who were visiting from D.C. to rent some movies. I was chatting with the clerk, and handed him my movies, and I paid and left. As we got out into the parking lot my friends said (as one)"how did he know your name?" I'd lived here only about 6 months.

lemming held forth

Security officers know my name.

This is not because I have done anything other than arrive.


Alison held forth

Did we not tell you, Lemming? We warned them you were coming.