The Small Town Fallacy

There are some great things about living in a rural town. The people are friendly, the winters are breathtaking and there’s some other, third great thing I’m sure.

That’s all a big fat lie. The people here are the most close-minded, cliquish, unfriendly group of so and sos you’ll ever have the displeasure to meet. Anyone up here who will deign to talk to us is originally from someplace else. If you didn’t attend high school locally you’re considered an outsider and automatically shunned. They don’t look in your eyes or acknowledge your existence. They’re cold, apple-headed, fat-assed Stepford-people. AND they vote Republican!

I’ll never forget a couple of years ago I was pumping gas in a neighboring town. It was over four bucks a gallon at the time. I looked up and there was an older lady pumping across from me. We caught each others’ eye and I gave her a “can you believe this?” look. She said something like, “Would you look at these prices!” and I said something like, “I know, it ridiculous.” So far, so good. Then she says, “I blame that Al Gore. This is all his fault!” I had no response to that. Had I thought it would make a difference I might have said, “First of all, Gore had the election stolen from him, so he didn’t get the chance to affect gas prices one way or another. Secondly, GW Bush’s family is so tied up in big oil they serve petroleum daiquiris with every meal, and during a recession those oil companies posted record-breaking, billion-dollar revenue increases on the back of lower middle class schmucks like yourself. So get back in that car and listen to some more Rush Limbaugh you right-wing wing-nut, before Bush gets another phone-call from his oil cronies and pushes the price up to five bucks a gallon.” Oh, to have a few moments in time back.

The first year we were up here in the land of the toothless we invited all of Mychal’s classmates to a birthday party. When we didn’t get any RSVPs we thought it was odd, but we chalked it up to different customs. The big day came and we decorated the hall we used in a cool Star Wars theme and braced ourselves for a roomful of first graders. One kid showed. One. Thank God Mychal was too young to feel the disappointment we felt on his behalf—he had a great time. Mary El and I took the full brunt of the back-handed slap of the “friendly” small-town natives. No one even had the courtesy to tell us they weren’t coming. Jerks. Don’t let the songs and the commercials fool you. Small-town people would step over your dead body to ride their three-wheelers or work on their lawn or vote for a dictatorship or sing “I’m Proud to Be an American” wrapped in a flag and holding a torch. They’re vicious, jingoistic, stuck-up prigs who have little or nothing to be stuck-up about since they are about as interesting as a doorstop. “Friendly” my left testicle.

And don’t get me started on the winters. Winters in upstate New York aren’t something you experience, they are something you survive. The first couple of times it snows you look out your window and see that picture postcard and say, “Wow, that’s so picturesque.” The next couple of times it snows you rub the frost off the window and say, “Wow, it’s really piling up out there. I hope we can get the car out.” The next few times you can’t see out your window because of a snow drift that has frozen your house solid. You dig a tunnel out to your car and do the “reverse/drive dance” for a half hour before you finally get it unstuck. You pay your 800 dollar heating bill and your 400 dollar plowing bill and say, “Wow, I could live the rest of my life without seeing one more friggin’ snowflake fall from the sky.” Of course by now it’s January and you still have 2+ months of this nonsense still to go. “Picturesque” my right testicle.

Mary El and I bemoan the place we live almost daily. If it weren’t for the elementary school Mychal goes to, which is right out of Mayberry, we would have moved back downstate long ago. The nearest shopping plaza is 25 minutes away. If you want something that can’t be found at WalMart or Price Chopper, the drive becomes 50 minutes. We spend more money on gas than we do on food. In a mock election at the kids’ school, Obama lost in a landslide. No one in the entire third grade voted for him. When my stepson transferred up to the local High School for the last half of his last year, we joked with him that the curriculum would probably include farming. On his first day he was asked if he would like to take Animal Husbandry. The kids don’t get any Jewish holidays off. Martin Luther King Day is barely tolerated.  We haven’t had a decent pizza, or Chinese food, or Italian or Kosher, or good rolls since we moved up here. We usually end up at the diner three towns over eating a cheeseburger, ’cause at least it’s dependable and not McDonalds (which is the only place closer). Drivers will tailgate you for miles if you don’t do 15 miles over the speed limit. The local auto repair place kept our car for three weeks the last time we brought it in, then lost the keys on us. We can’t use our own trunk now. Unemployment is rampant, because half the workers up here are seasonal for the winter and the other half only work Spring and Summer. The locals burn leaves and gossip like old women and ride their gas-guzzling pickups around with the picture of the bratty kid taking a piss on the back window.

Driving Conor to school yesterday we were talking about which countries speak Spanish (I was apparently giving one of my “long Dad answers” according to Conor) when a suicidal wild turkey stepped into the road. I swerved to my left, but the bug-eyed bird was determined to be hit. As Conor said later, it was like two people trying to pass each other in the hallway but continually stepping into each others’ path. The squawking fowl finally made a desperate flight-like movement and crashed into my driver-side windshield leaving a big, wet wingprint before continuing on its merry way. At least it wasn’t a deer. Or a bear, which we’ve seen on the side of the road on one occasion. This is not Wild freaking Kingdom, this is the town we live in.

At least I didn’t hit a townie. Those big fat asses can be murder on your suspension.

    • Kae
    • May 13th, 2011

    Interesting that the people are so obnoxious. For all my complaints about Texas, Texans really are friendly people. (Just don’t take their guns away from them.)

    Winter Wonderland Phenomenon: Winter stinks when you live in the north. Move to the south, and you miss it like crazy, no matter how irrational that is.

    Petroleum daiquiris: I love it! (Not really, of course.)

    I’d been worried about you since you hadn’t blogged for a few days. Hope you’re okay. I know you’re going to see Mary Ellen in Grey Gardens this weekend. Have a great time! Wish I could go, too.

  1. I’m still here, hanging on by a thread. I finally get to see her show tomorrow–can’t wait!

  2. Brian,
    Thank goodness somebody else said it for me…small town kindness my patootie, especially in the North. things ain’t no diff across the river and I’ve about had it up to my eyeballs with hillbillies and wondering why “I don’t fit in” oh F fitting in here really, who cares? … I feel better.

    I never loved the South, but I gotta tell ya, the people will at least look you in the eye and say hello, and the men’ll help out a women they see struggling to lift something.

    South or Western Bound….that’s me…..

  3. We just want to move about an hour south, that’s all. We thought it was us not fitting in too, and we gave up as well. Now we say we’d rather not fit in if it means becoming like these people.

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