Small is relative


Small towns have a way about them.  Hard to explain.  But one of the telltales is being ‘known’ or recognized by clerks and ticket takers.  People you wouldn’t expect would ‘know you’.  Certainly not in the city…….

We pulled into the BC Ferry lot last week.

“Two adults, please.”

“No dogs, today?”

I was stunned.  Here is a woman who works changing shifts and here we are traveling on the ferry but twice a month.  Admittedly, we have been doing that for awhile but she not only recognized us but looked for our two dogs.  Not one dog – which, in itself would have been more expected – but both.  And they only travel with us about three times a year!  She knew us.

When I pull into Save-On, I take plastic totes into the store, pile them and the cooler in a corner and then Sally does the rounds while I race off to do other chores.  Thousands of customers come in every day and we only go in once every two weeks. We do not seek out any one of the six or so cashiers but simply go for the shortest line.

“I know.  You want the cold stuff first right?  And you are likely trying to catch the next ferry, right?  Then it is off in a small boat after that?”

“Unh, yeah”.

“Yeah.  I know.  I have watched you pack.  You are kinda particular.  Guess that’s because of the load for the small boat, eh?”

“Unh, yeah.”

“So, how is it?  Living on the outer islands, like?”

“It is great.  Love it.  How’d you know?”

Well, you and your wife been coming in for years.  Story gets around, ya know.  There are quite a few islanders who shop here.  We kinda know ém all.  Not names.  Totes and gumboots mostly.  I’m Tricia.”

“Nice to meet you, Tricia.  This is my wife, Sally.”

And so it goes.

We are both known at the sushi place and the Syrian restaurant and they are, of course, less frequented than Save On.  The guys at the marine supply shop know me and that is just plain weird – I hardly ever go in there.  The Rocky Mountain Fudge ladies know me, too.  “Come in for your wife, again?  Chocolate walnut?”   But I don’t like to encourage them very much.  I am convinced they think I am lying and buying fudge for myself.  But it seems pretty lame to argue my aversion to heavy sweets to store clerks when I regularly attend to their fudge shop.  They can think what they want.

The weird thing is I have a doctor in town and the staff are the same bunch year after year.  Every time I go in they quiz me like I am an Arab with a box cutter trying to get on a plane.  You’d think your doctor’s office would know you – but they don’t!

‘Course the main reason we are known at Lordco and machine shops and junkyards is our nearest neighbour out here has been a prominent resident of the town for several decades and we are familiar by association.  In effect, we have instant acquaintances by association.  So that explains a lot.

But not everything.  Small town people are generally a bit more curious about you and typically have the time to engage when going through a minor transaction.  Short, personal conversations ensue.  People connect.  I am not talking about being invited to the cashier’s wedding but I am saying that she will likely tell me about it when I am next in buying spark plugs.  That’s kinda neat.

Funny thing about a small town – it doesn’t feel as small when you are recognized and acknowledged by the inhabitants.  Feels bigger, somehow.

1 thought on “Small is relative

  1. Butterfly Effect or why they know your faces. A property of chaotic systems (your trip to town) by which small changes in initial conditions can lead to large-scale and unpredictable variation in the future state of the system.


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