Monday, July 22, 2013

Life in a Smaller Town

I’m enjoying a stretch of time in my small hometown, where life actually does move more slowly.

I remember the first time I returned here after having lived in Nashville and southwest Florida. Can you guess what shocked me? No? I could not get over how easy it is to drive here. 

Weekday roadwork on major north-south artery? Sure.
 There aren’t any interstates here—just limited access highways. You don’t make it very far without the speed limit dropping for a town. People wait for big gaps between cars, then pull out. And the big gaps come! People let you go ahead and take their time backing out of parking spaces. Folks leave lots of space between cars—mostly. Sure, at least part of that comes from the size of the town, but part of it’s attitude.

At the park with Little A., ninety percent of the parents talked to friends or their kids; maybe one or two stayed on the phone. A sweet older lady wrote a check for her groceries in front of me. The (one!) clerk in the (tiny!) post office took the time to weigh my letter and smile as she watched Little A. put it in the slot.

It isn’t as if my family and I moved to Miami or something, but I don’t know if coastal Florida will ever be as laidback as this. We have an intense seasonal population and I fear that we permanent residents absorb a little more of their tension every year. Does it really matter who gets the best parking space at the pharmacy?

Or maybe it’s just that there’s less tension between man and nature here. In Florida, I feel mankind has to fight for every inch of space—outdoor areas end up being ruthlessly manicured or hopelessly engulfed in jungle. Manmade structures show wear so much faster—fading and molding and growing vines if unattended. Here, the trees grow taller and cast more shade, grass grows slower, buildings last longer. There seems to be more of a middle ground. It’s peaceful to me.

The funny thing is that (and I’m sure there are lots of psychologists and gurus out there with “I told you so”s!), even though I’m slowing down…things still get done. I’m going to bed when I’m tired and waiting patiently in line and checking my phone less and things still get done.

So right now I’m trying to absorb as much of this glorious laidback attitude as I can. I want to take it back to my home, which I love, and choose not to live like a rat—most things aren’t worth racing for. Sure, I’ll keep my eye on the prize, but we’ll get there.

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