Small talk in a small town can often be deceiving
Living in a small town gives you the opportunity to regularly see familiar faces, even if you don’t quite know their names. The grocery clerk, the waitress at the local diner, the auto mechanic and the girl at the coffee stand are all familiar faces.
When you see them outside of their usual place of business, it’s not unusual to nod and smile in passing. It all adds up to the charm of small-town living.
Certain places are hubs of social activity in a small town. The grocery store always seems to be one of those places.
Colorful and bright, with favorite oldies playing in the background, and freshly baked bread wafting from the bakery, it has just the right atmosphere for a friendly chat with familiar neighbors, old friends and recent acquaintances.
Clusters of people “running into each other and catching up” regularly create traffic jams up and down the aisles. Folks seem to take it all in stride and simply weave and bob their way around these little groups with a polite “excuse me” and a friendly smile.
There is something comforting in listening to these impromptu conversations about Sandra’s new baby boy, Jeremy’s college degree, or the happy news that Aunt Mary is out of the hospital and doing fine. Chances are you just might know who they are talking about.
Even the librarians are tolerant of social interactions and, in fact, are sometimes guilty of chatting more than the patrons. Discussions about favorite books and gardening tips are held while checking out your selections.
Young mothers with noisy children are looked upon fondly, while teenagers with piercings and purple hair lay out reference books on work tables while chatting together over school projects.
Maybe it’s the fresh air and wide open spaces, but people seem to have a laid-back attitude that can be quite contagious.
The post office is another hub of daily social activity, especially on a sunny day when people take the time to stop on their daily stroll to check their mail. They stand in groups out on the sidewalk, or inside the lobby, catching up on local politics, their latest fishing trip or that bad back strain from working the garden.
One day as I was stepping out of my car in front of the post office to mail a package, a woman by the door waved her hand and loudly said a friendly, “Hi! How have you been?”
She seemed to be looking right at me, and as I peered at her face, thinking to myself that she must be someone I knew but couldn’t quite place, I said, “Oh, hi! I’m fine, how have you been?”
When she mentioned having a great time at dinner the other night, I took a closer look. It was then that she turned her head and, to my embarrassment, I realized she had a cellphone to her ear.
The wave was just a hand gesture to go along with her conversation. But she didn’t seem to notice me, and for once there was no one else around, so I gathered up my package and slid my way past her.
I guess mistakes like that can happen when you are used to the friendliness in a small town. It is not uncommon for strangers to strike up a conversation with you anywhere. Once while reading the labels on cans of tomato sauce in the local grocery store, a woman behind me asked, “Do you like the kind with peppers and onions or do you like mushrooms?”
Of course I answered her question, only to turn around and realize she was asking someone that question on a cellphone.
I’ve since learned my lesson. Now whenever someone appears to be speaking to me, I check both their ears to make sure they actually are. Nine times out of 10 they are. And that’s what gives a small town its charm.
Karen Frost, one of six reader columnists whose work appears on this page, is the mother of four grown children. She lives in Buckley with her husband and assorted pets. She blogs at beatriceeuphemievintagecottagestyle.blogspot.com
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