City Life vs. Country Life


Some readers will accuse me of painting a caricature in this column.  I agree.  The opinions I have formed are based on my interactions with a small number of people.  However, all of my life interactions are usually with a small number of people, so this may not be merely a caricature.  You decide.

Caricature 1:  City life is fast paced and danger lurks around every corner. 

I first recognized this as a college student from Columbus when I travelled to New York City.  My New York host instructed me strongly, “don’t look anyone in the eye and don’t talk to anyone.”  I tried to comply, but as I stood on Fifth Avenue and watched people rush by, I wondered where they were all going and why they were in such a great hurry.  You can’t discern people’s reasons without looking into their eyes at some point.  Violating my host’s instructions bore no consequences.  I observed, people hurried by, and life went on.  That is, until my second violation. 

Later that day, I rested on a bench in one of the city’s many parks to observe my surroundings.  People raced down the sidewalk to their destination and a few took a shortcut through the park.  Other people, arrayed in colorful garments, habited the park benches.  They were lounging or sleeping as though the park was their living room, and it was afternoon nap time.  I had never seen anything like this and I pulled out my camera to take a picture.  That’s when the city reared its ugly head.  Some of the loungers yelled that I was a spy for the CIA.  I shook my head to deny it but there was no dissuading the shouters.  I recognized the irrationality of this accusation because the CIA was empowered only to act outside of the USA, but I did not believe these people would listen to a reasonable argument.  I envisioned being mobbed on my first day in New York.  My host would not be pleased.  I hugged my belongings, my bag and my camera, close to me and considered my options.  There were about seven loungers and newly awakened sleepers and only one of me and not one of the passers-by was paying any attention.  I imagined the vagrants rising from their benches to surround and attack me.  Moving cautiously, I rose and strode toward the stream of fast walkers on the nearby sidewalk.  Before I reached them, I glanced over my shoulder to see if the bench-sitters were following, but they must have been content to scare that naive college girl.   I entered the stream and moved on, wiser in the ways of the city.    

Caricature 2--Country life is slow and everyone wants to be your friend.   

In the last year I have discovered that country people like to stop and talk.  Relationship takes priority over business, or perhaps alongside business.  I hired someone to mow my tall grass.  When he had finished, he came to the door for payment.  Or so I thought.  I opened the door and held out the cash.  He ignored the money in my hand, walked into the house, plopped down into the comfortable chair next to the sofa where my husband was adjusting the television, and began to talk.  We spoke about life and work and politics and his business and whatever came to mind.  He did take the cash when he left, but relationship preceded business.  And it has been that way for most of the people I meet.  When I drop into a nearby retail garden center, the owners and workers stop to talk to me about subjects that interest them and ones that interest me.  I enjoy the conversation but feel guilty for interrupting their work; It doesn’t seem to bother them.  I assuage my guilt by purchasing things I may not need.

Early this spring, I stopped by the garden center to ask a question, and the owners took me on a tour of their new “green” greenhouse, the cistern for recycling water, and new benches from The Netherlands.  If I walked into a city nursery or greenhouse under construction I would be told to leave, not given a tour.  This is as much of a shock as I experienced in New York, but a pleasant shock. And more shocks keep coming.  Country business people don’t worry about contracts; It’s all done on a handshake.  That’s somewhat disquieting to me with my background in law and certainty.  And forget about quick service.  In the city, it’s all about speed and convenience.  “Same Day Service.”  “Open 24 Hours.”  In the country, I hear “maybe in two or three weeks” or “when the creek level drops.”  Most stores are closed Sundays.  There’s something refreshing about knowing that whoever you hire is not rushing to get the next dollar. 

What do you think?  Have I portrayed these caricatures rightly? Which life do you live? 

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1 Response to "City Life vs. Country Life"

  1. Anonymous Says:
    November 04, 2012 7:36 AM

    You said it perfectly.!
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