new york is a small town.
in fact, it’s probably more of a small town than the small town you live in.
because you walk everywhere in new york, there’s more opportunity to get to know people, and see people you know. and because there are few large megastores (although this is slowly changing), a lot of your shopping tends to take place at small independently-owned mom-and-pop type stores. this leads inevitably to your knowing these people as well.
do you know the cashier’s name at wal-mart? don’t lie to me. most times you don’t. and i know you too well. if you have a wal-mart or the equivalent available, you shop there. kirk and i have a target within walking (15 minutes) distance, but the vast majority of our shopping is still done at small stores. when you don’t have a car and have to physically carry everything you purchase, it makes a big difference in your shopping habits. no going to the grocery store or the box store or the wal-mart super center and filling up the car with crap to last you weeks.
you have to be judicious.
so, out of necessity, you make lots of frequent shopping trips. pick up a few things after work every day. and when you make a purchase of a large, heavy item, you have to factor in the price of the taxi to get it home, which admittedly makes internet shopping for big things very attractive. but oddly, most times we buy large heavy things locally. and most times, we make lots of little trips to dick’s hardware, not home depot. we go to c-town, not kroger’s or publix. we go to grandpa’s pizza, not pizza hut.
all of this is to explain that all these frequent shopping trips to the same places makes you friendly with a lot of people. some you know their names, some you don’t. but you still know them, and they know you. going to macy’s to get my razor fixed today reminded me of that.
i have a norelco razor that’s at least 10 years old, probably more. i’ve forgotten how old it is, but i’ve had it a long time. and every year i take it to macy’s and get the blades replaced and the razor cleaned and lubed and whatnot, and it costs me about $40. every few years i have to get the rechargeable batteries replaced, and this trip i had to get that done too, so it was another $30. so with tax, $80-ish. still cheaper than a new norelco razor, which i have no idea if it would work well or last a long time.
and $40 a year is less money than people spend on disposable razors and all the accompanying accoutrements and the like, so i think it’s $40 well spent.
and every year, i spend it with james on the top floor of macy’s, in the razor department. he’s an older gentleman who remembers what it means to give good customer service, and gives it, and remembers you too, or at least does a good job of acting like he remembers you, which is in effect the same thing anyway.
and james is just one in a long line of people i know in new york, and see on a regular basis, and interact with, and it’s because i live in a small town.
it’s a small town because i got my ass out of a car, and started walking around and interacting with people. ian mckellen was on the hbo bill maher show recently, and he made this exact point, and everyone was generally dismissive of him.
but he’s exactly right. people spend their lives in their automotive bubble-of-unreality, and people become less human to them, and their interactions with others become more and more strained.
and if you are saying “well, i live too far from everything and have to drive,” my response to you is that you have made a conscious decision to put yourself in that position, and you have options.
and if you are then saying, “well, i can’t afford to live in a large city like new york that is dense and walkable and has public transportation options”, my response to you is that you could damn well afford it if you weren’t paying so much for that car of yours. i’ve lived both lifestyles. you can’t fool me.
at the very least, i think you should park your car and walk as much as you can, and stop going to wal-mart and start going to neighborhood stores even if it costs you a bit more, and start cultivating regularly scheduled inconsequential interactions with regular people on a regular basis.
i think you should endeavor to make where you live a small town, no matter where you live.
a small town much like new york city.