Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hobnobbing with the Hoity Toity

By Rob Watson

Some of you have lived your whole lives in a small community. You know most everyone and are related to a fair number of them. For myself, I have lived in 12 communities, some of them twice, and different houses while in most. A while back, I counted up the buildings I have lived in. The count comes to about 28. As if that were not enough, I have bought a house in a 13th community and plan to live there part time, for a while.

This is to say, I am familiar with being the new kid (person, outsider, etc) in town. The first reaction of the locals is curiosity. Early in our most recent  settlement, one man stopped his car in the middle of the street to start a conversation. Other folks allowed us to hire their teen age sons to unload the two large U-Hauls and several trailer loads of household goods and business goods. Curiously, the pastor of my church introduced me to the congregation. That had never happened before, and he never did it again, that I know of.

The first actual friend I made here, came after church one Sunday. I was here alone. Wife was still back in Old Town, tending to last minute affairs there. New Town is quite small, perhaps 1500 people and shrinking. It had only one restaurant open on Sunday. It opened early to accommodate the people from my church. When I got there it was full. Every table was occupied and most were completely filled. (Unknown to me, there was a back room)

The restaurant served dinner buffet style on Sundays. As I stood beside the entrance looking around the room, it was clear that everyone had just arrived, from my church, and might be there for a half hour or so before making a place for me. At one of the less favorable tables, immediately beside the cash register, sat an elderly gentleman and an elderly lady. They faced me and were no more than four feet away from where I stood. They had just seated themselves with their food when the gentleman looked up at me. The table seated four, and I boldly asked if I could join them. (Shyness having been purged from my system some years in the past... I may have even written about the day somewhere in this collection of posts.)

The gentleman and the lady both smiled and invited me to join them. We exchanged self introductions. They were husband and wife. Over time, I learned that my new friend was a successful farmer and cattleman. He had been an active community leader, city council, water district, etc. In traveling with him later, we would stop for coffee or lunch. At these pauses it was usual for someone to (usually two or more) to stop at our table and chat. This even occurred 50 or more miles from New Town.

Wife wanted to be active in the community and joined several community service groups. She is great with names and is quite personable. She became well known to the community leaders, business leaders, and those of significant social standing in the community. I would introduce myself as "Mr. New Lady in Town"

The next reaction of the locals is suspicion. New ideas and suggestions, especially if they were counter to the old way of doing things, were usually rejected out-of-hand. I got crossways with a number of people by opposing the closing of the church school. I also irritated the gossips by maintaining a friendship with the pastor of my church. He was under pressure (as a newcomer, and foreigner) for instituting new ideas at the church. (This eventually affected his health and he left to go back to his home country)

Wife is a worker. She is willing to do the work to implement her ideas. She gained acceptance for that very trait. I tend to be less personable, especially to those who have a limited interest in me and my ideas. Together, like all new people, even after five years, we have achieved limited acceptance in this community.

Not long ago, someone undertook to explain this to us. It seems that all, or nearly all, of our friends are the upper crust here in New Town. This struck us both as humorous, as we considered our friends as ordinary, down to earth, genuine good people. Then we began to count them on our fingers: Mayor, former mayor, City Manager, Supervisor of city workers, city council persons, county selectmen, fire chief, top business leaders,  most of the successful farmers... Yep, we is guilty.

Things may not be any better in Next Town. Our first two acquaintances: the mayor and her best friend. (Maybe, we just have exceptionally good taste in people.)

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