I went to the local police station the other day. Don’t panic, I wasn’t in any trouble, it was a routine thing for work. It turned out that Paul, the Senior Sergeant I was talking to, was my neighbour. Well he lives six doors down which around here is the same thing. He knew instantly who I was, where I lived and where I worked. I assumed that was because he was a good copper, but actually, it’s a routine peril of living in a small town.
The dangers of low density living come in many forms and can creep insidiously into your life. Before you know it, you equate knowing everyone’s business to having a sense of community. You talk to strangers in the street and get to meet your local MP. City mice meanwhile, live with the anonymity of a crowd and the concept that only nutters talk to strangers on public transport. Those two things are easily avoided around here because a.) there’s not much in the way of crowds and b.) there isn’t any public transport.
We haven’t resorted to talking to strangers just yet though. We don’t need to. We’ve been living here a month and already we’ve started bumping into people we know while out shopping. And when it comes to degrees of separation there’s almost none in this town. A work colleague of Gretta is married to colleague of mine, so between the two of us we know more about their relationship than they do.
One thing we don’t know anything about is how the post works. We must have the only dyslexic postie in Australia. The mail for our street is regularly mixed up without rhyme or reason. Ordinarily, you might expect at best for the people with your mail to drop it into your post box, but not in a small town. Here the wayward letters get delivered to our door complete with apologies from our neighbour for the faults of the postman, and quick chat about the harvest. That would never happen in the city.
You wouldn’t find many businesses that provide more than one or two specialized services either. Our local camping store seconds as the windscreen repair shop, which makes sense as most campers around here come complete with monstrous 4WD’s. But how many undertakers do you know of that operate from a renovated pub and run the furniture store next door? Being shown the latest thing in lounge suites by a guy wearing a black suit and top hat is a little… weird?
It must be by writers of sitcoms love a small town, they are a gold mine of material. I can just see a bookcase being delivered out of the back of a hearse. Meanwhile I’ll give Paul a friendly wave when he drives past on the way to work in the morning. It pays to keep The Bill onside, in any town.