Communicating in a Small Town

I live in a small community within a small community. Hemlock Farms is a 4500 acre gated community that was first created in 1963. There are about 4000 homes and about 75 miles of paved road. There are a lot of amenities and activities although, not being much of a joiner, I’ve only taken advantage of a couple of cooking classes and the fitness center. It’s pretty self-contained with its own volunteer fire department, a public safety office complete with police, and all the support a resident could want. The roads are plowed as soon as it starts to snow and the community is well maintained with many lakes, pools, parks, and trails. It is in Lords Valley which really isn’t a town like we think of towns. It is more an exit off I84 with small privately owned businesses, a couple of fast food places (of course!), and one shopping area that has a small grocery store, wine and spirits shop, dollar store, and pizza place (what more could you ask for?). People made lots of jokes when I moved to Hemlock — the obvious Socrates reference. Then jokes about Lords Valley. So, I am here to set the record straight before I talk about my recent discoveries about how one communicates in a small town.

Levi Lord was the first resident of Lords Valley. He and 11 friends who, according to local sources, all came to this country together on the same ship in 1809, purchased the property that is now known as Lords Valley. He and his sons built a house that is still standing although it is in quite a state of disrepair next to 84 Lumber and across from the concrete plant. The house is listed on the National Historic Register although it is unlikely that anything will be done with it. It hasn’t been used since 1955 when it closed as the local post office. That’s all I have been able to find out about Levi Lord so far.

I have been thinking a lot about how people communicate in small towns since my recent experiences at the Milford Diner. They still refer to my blogposts as “letters” because many of the people who frequent the diner do not own computers. This made me think of the culture of the workplace. I emailed constantly to the others in my group even though we were in earshot of one another all the time. It drove me crazy that it was an effort to have a face to face conversation. Sometimes when I tried that, it was viewed as an imposition I’m sure. I am addicted to email, Facebook, Skype, and blogging as ways to stay connected with friends, family, and acquaintances. Since I live alone, that is a very important part of my life. I remain amazed at how many businesses up here do not use email to communicate, relying on phone calls. Homer’s Construction is an exception but all emails go to the owner’s (Tim) cell phone and it is up to him and him alone to respond. He does sometimes but most of the time email and then wonder if my requests have been heard. At least there’s the email option. Most information around here is shared through direct conversation. This morning I learned from the person at the deli counter who always waits on me that the cold snap (it still isn’t over 20 degrees!!) should be ending by next week and it will go up into the 30s. We agreed that this was awesome and I can’t wait for the ice to melt!! Never mind the snow. My hairdresser, Doreen, knows all about the area and the people in it and shares readily so I learned who’s good and who’s not for various services which is very helpful. Tim from Homer’s Construction and his guys keep me informed about weather, how to navigate winter, what products to buy to keep my car cleaned off, and other guy stuff. My friend, Nancy, keeps me informed about real estate in Hemlock, not to mention she knows how to get things done around here and quickly. The Carrachilo brothers who delivered the wood told me to call if I needed advice or anything and gave me lots of it about fires, winter in Lords Valley, the yard, and dogs. And, let’s not forget the folks at the diner who have already helped me buy a Christmas tree and are available for advice on just about anything you need to know in the area including snow tubing. The art of conversation is not lost to email or to texting and tweeting in this small town. It’s not been rediscovered — it was never lost.

One reply

  1. sksweaver says:

    I keep thinking about the comment in your last post from the guy at the diner who said “it’s like that at all diners.” I keep wondering how many diners he’s been at, or if he assumes that there are places and people everywhere like the places and people he has known all his life. I’ve also been thinking how easy it is for city dwellers to hear about small towns and sort of snort and make fun of it, or at the other extreme, romanticize it into something that is somehow hallowed or better. But really we are all the same. We know what we know and think that is normal. We think our normal matches everyone else’s (or at least it should) and we hop onto criticism because someone behaves in a way that is reasonable for their normal but kind of nutty for ours. But in the end… we all just do whatever we can to get by in the context of our lives. Thanks for reminding me of that (as I sit here knowing I should go visit someone in another building but am reticent to leave the safety of my office and all the computers and phones and email clients!)