Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
When I lived in Aspen I used to be on the lookout for what I called “Mayberry Moments” – those little encounters that made me realize that, despite the hype, I’m really in a very small town where wonderful little small town things still happen. They happened often, and some of them were quite literal – nothing says “Mayberry Moment” quite like saying hello to the sheriff on the sidewalk.
Well, now I live in a town so small that I can no longer have Mayberry Moments, because the fictitious Mayberry seems like a metropolis by comparison. Besides, I seem to recall Mayberry having an actual stoplight. That’s big-city stuff.
Here are a few vignettes from my even smaller town life so far …
• I went into the local rental store to get a floor sander: one of those big, heavy drum sanders that I don’t know how to use. The woman at the desk wrote down my name and how much sandpaper I took. Then a guy helped me lift it into the truck. And I drove away. That was it. No phone number. No address. No credit card imprint for security. I just drove away with it. I’m not even sure she spelled my name right.
When I brought it back the next day I asked why they didn’t take any of this information down. The woman said, “Well, if you’re sanding a floor I figure you must be the people who are fixing up the old Bruce place.”
And … she was right.
And her son, from the back room, added, “And make sure you don’t vent your dryer under the house like they used to. It’s dangerous. You should clean out all that lint that’s collected under there from all those years.”
And … he was right.
• The neighbor across the street likes to let her vicious dog roam the neighborhood. Sometimes he comes into our yard and squares off at me, growling. I respond by pretending to throw things at him. He responds by knowing that I’m only pretending, then growling some more.
Right next door to the dog owner is the police officer in charge of animal control. I asked him what I should do about the dog, having already talked to the neighbor, to no avail. He said that he’s cited her several times for her dog, even taken her to court, but his jurisdiction ends at the road that separates our houses: It’s the city limit. The dog lives in the city; we, across the street, live in the county.
So, when the dog steps into the road – even if he’s right in front of the dog-cop’s house chasing a group of pregnant women – it’s out of his jurisdiction. If the dog goes all the way into our yard, an extra 10 feet, it may as well have crossed the border into Canada.
Somehow, the dog seems to know this.
• You can pay your electric bill at the grocery store.
• There’s a bread phone list at the bakery. Since they don’t have a baking schedule – they just make whatever bread suits their fancy at the time – you tell them what kind of bread is your favorite, and when they make it, they call you. Not an e-mail list. Not a Web-based sign-up. A phone list. With an actual person, calling you, saying, “Hi, just wanted to let you know that we’re making the cornmeal molasses bread tomorrow morning.”
• My favorite breakfast place makes burritos that are filled with bacon AND sausage – and not for an extra price. It’s just what they come with. That’s not necessarily a small town thing, it’s just so awesome that it’s worth mentioning.
• I lived in Aspen for 15 years, and an additional five years in other places in the valley, so after 20 years, I felt OK calling myself a local. But even if I live here in Paonia for the rest of my long, healthy life, I don’t think I’ll get to call myself a local – because my great-great-grandparents didn’t homestead here.
And that’s fine. I don’t mind being a perpetual newcomer.
• Oh, and I suppose another reason the rental place didn’t ask for a credit card deposit on the floor sander is because they don’t accept credit cards.
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