Small Towns and the Three Second Intersection Rule
by Charles W. Dowdy
I can commute from the door of my house to the door of my office in 9 minutes -- perhaps even less if my daughter Beth doesn't get too fussy with her goodbye hug. Ever since Beth learned to equate work with money, which then translated into my ability to purchase accessories for her Groovy Girl doll, she has been very supportive of my work related endeavors. This shows a remarkable grasp of economics for a three-year-old and also means I have to sneak my golf clubs into the car as my sweet little girl seriously frowns on Daddy's taking a day off.
Anyway, the commute from home to work barely allows time for my coffee to cool. And that's what you would expect because I choose to live in a small town.
As a small town driver I have a three-second policy when it comes to pulling through an intersection. That means I wait no more than three seconds, then I go. This is my right as a small town driver. This is the luxury we small town people are afforded. (This hasn't done much for my insurance premiums.)
Sometimes when I'm in a city and tell people where I live, they have said, "Oh, living such a slow paced lifestyle must be so relaxing." They have also said, "Why did you think that tie matches that shirt?" and "You have a big chunk of salad in your teeth."
On the point about small town versus the city, I would argue differently. I would say that by its very nature living in a small town is more stressful than a city. I have several examples that back up my claim.
First, cities have museums. Go into any museum and your heart rate will actually decrease by 35%. You will feel yourself relax. I mean really, REALLY relax. That is why the bathrooms are always so clearly marked at museums.
Second, the aforementioned commute discrepancy. It is like a good cry. Sometimes my wife cries. She says she needs that cry to let that built up emotion out. Then it is my job to go hug her. Unfortunately my wife is a messy crier and all of that emotion seems to liquefy and come out her nose. I don't necessarily need the liquefied emotion on my shirt but that's the price to be paid for her emotional clearinghouse.
With our short commutes we small town people never have that cry. We go somewhere and get there so fast that we're still going somewhere in our heads. People in the city have a chance to get all the going out of their systems as they wait for their bus/train/cab and then try to converse with someone who doesn't speak a stitch of English. When city people get somewhere, the going side of them is spent. They have accomplished something. This phenomenon also gives married couples in the city something to talk about at dinner:
City Married Couple Husband: "Where did you go today?"
City Married Couple Wife: "I had to go buy some paint but the United Cab Drivers of Middle Asia are striking again so I had to take the subway, only the twelve train was running behind so I missed my connection and had to come topside and pick up the fourteen bus which was jam packed with those kinds of Europeans who don't bathe. It was a real headache. By the time I got to the hardware store I was totally spent."
Small Town Married Couple Husband: "Where did you go today?"
Small Town Married Couple Wife: "Bought some paint."
Small Town Married Couple Husband: "Why are you crying?"
Small Town Married Couple Wife: "I don't know."
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in a small town it is impossible to remain anonymous. Give people in a small town time and they will learn everything about you. The Gestapo could have learned interrogation methods from these people. They will know where you go to church, and you better lie if you don't. They will find out where you work. And they will not stop until they've cracked the most important nut of all: who your family is.
This kind of familiarity can be exhausting. You go to everyone's wedding. You go to everyone's funeral. You wave at everyone. You are expected to speak to everyone by name, making something as simple as a trip to the post office a stressful ordeal. Is that Frank or Henry? Did his wife just die or his daughter get married? Of course he'll stop and strike up a conversation. What do you say to this man? It's bad form to congratulate a death, even worse form to offer your condolences after a marriage.
Turns out it was Phil -- his son just got discharged from the Army. Luckily our conversation was saved from that embarrassing identity stumbling when Phil questioned the sticky substance on my shirt.
But now Phil has made the mistake of pulling out in front of me and I can only pray he'll get out of the way. He's got exactly three seconds.
Charles Dowdy, a "young, beleaguered dad columnist," is the proud father of four little ones, and he knows that of which he writes. He would love to share his parenting knowledge, every funny moment of it, with readers.
Write Charles at cwdowdyjr.
Named Humor Writer for April, 2003
Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop
at the University of Dayton [Ohio]
Charles Dowdy's web site is not to be missed! He has to be one of the funniest, most irreverent writers in the South . . . or anywhere. Go see!
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