I live in a small town. Well, it’s actually big enough to have lots of traffic on the main street that runs through the town. I like to think we live in Mayberry–you know, Andy Griffith’s fictional town. When at the car dealership to have my truck serviced, I sit in the waiting room and wait for the next person to come in the door. You know how awkward that moment is for most people: you step through the door into a waiting room full of people looking back at you, you don’t look at anyone as you shuffle to the nearest vacant seat as every head turns to look you up and down. Here, in my Mayberry, more often than not, the person coming through the door says, “Good morning!”
The first time I witnessed this I couldn’t help but wonder if this particular person was a little “touched in the head” or something. But no sooner had he found a seat when another person, this one a woman, came through that door with, “Good morning! Hi! How you doin’?” I am a little slow sometimes, but I realized right away “I’m in MAYBERRY!” And I hugged myself. These people are just the friendliest people! So far we’ve met a retired Mathematics professor, a retired teacher, a nurse, a retired doctor, an Army woman, a few grandmas, and some business people. These people will share stories about their lives, their past jobs, hobbies, and inquire about you! The time flies by and everyone enjoys themselves. When someone’s car is ready, they get up and pay and then say, “Goodbye y’all! Have a nice day!” Or “See you again!”
I have lived on the outskirts of buzzing metropolises where my next door neighbor refused to say hello whenever I smiled and waved at her for three and a half years! Even Honolulu is one big metropolis where people aren’t really friendly, and even your “friends” may or may not say hello to you on any given day. Try chatting with a cashier, barista, or store clerk in these places and they look at you like you just kicked their dog.
In my Mayberry, we live in a rural neighborhood with a stocked pond for fishing. We take two walks and one bike ride everyday. We know most of our neighbors by name and when we see each other we wave or call out to one another or even stop for a chat. Many of them have invited us over “anytime”, and they mean it. Our neighbors across the way came over when they saw me struggling to start the lawnmower, and offered to mow the lawn for me. Our lawn is an acre and a half! I’ve been invited on walks, to Zumba classes, and over for tea. Three of my neighbors check in with me regularly to see how my recovery is going. Our newspaper usually has high school sports as front page news. Many of the clerks at Wal-Mart and the grocery store know us by name.
The euphoria I experienced, at first, was exhilarating. For the first year I couldn’t get over the feeling that we were camping in a pretty nice cabin in the woods. Life here is idyllic and we are truly blessed, however, a few things happened to knock the euphoria out of me and end the honeymoon. First, I discovered what it means to have and care for a septic tank. You’d think we’d have progressed beyond these tanks if the world and civilization have been around as long as some people like to claim.
Second, I paid a landscaper an enormous amount of cash to landscape three sides of my house. While sitting in the dining room doing school, I listened as one of his workers says, “She seems intelligent. She doesn’t seem like an idiot. Look, she’s homeschooling her kids.” Because I didn’t want to let them know I could hear them I continued to correct my son’s composition, but I can just imagine the faces or hand signals the landscaper was pulling. He didn’t do the work we agreed on and in the end he left with half the supplies that I paid for! Jerk. He was right; I am an idiot. But this idiot won’t hire HIM twice and you can bet anyone who asks will be told not to patronize his business.
Third, there are many little things such as: the “mall” can be walked in three minutes flat, there is no Starbucks (coming soon), we have only Wal-Mart (no Target), there are more businesses out of business than in business. We have to drive a good hour and a half to get to a decent mall, or two and a half to get to a luxury mall. I say these are little things because they aren’t deal breakers and they’ve actually added to a slower pace of life than we’re used to.
Both the county sheriff and the city sheriff live in my neighborhood which should make me feel all safe and warm, until we read on the front page that one of them was being investigated for activities in a drug ring. When we first arrived my hubby suggested I take a concealed weapons class, and then bought me a cute little gun with pink grips. The guy in the gun shop tells me to always carry my gun on me…even at home, especially at home. When I asked why, he told me that people like to knock on doors around here and when you open the door they bust in and rob you or worse. He suggested two different types of ammunition: a “safety one” you can use in the house that won’t punch through walls and hit your kids, and another kind that will punch holes through car doors “because you never know when you may need to shoot through a car door.” Okay, this is very un-Mayberry-like; but now I prefer to think of myself as an Aunt Bee-type packing heat. I loved shooting so much that I bought a shotgun, too. My Mayberry may be all in my head, but it will be well protected.