My friend Laura, who grew up in Gainesville, Georgia, and I recently reminisced about our experiences of being raised in small towns. While everyone knowing everything about everyone else could be a bit oppressive at times, there’s something to be said for the rules of etiquette that coexist with small-town living.
Let’s face it: The anonymity of living and working in big cities, as well as in conducting business online or over the phone with people we’ll never see, alters the way we interact with one another.
Unfortunately, obscurity seems to open the door for words and actions that would be appalling according to small-town standards.
Perhaps the time has come to consider ten things you would never do if you lived in a small town:
1) You would never honk your horn at an elderly driver for not accelerating fast enough when the light changed from red to green because the sweet older soul would turn out to be your beloved third-grade teacher.
Instead of honking, you would say, “Bless her heart,” and wait patiently.
2) You would never loudly discuss highly sensitive, personal business on your cell phone while in public because everyone within earshot would be someone who knows you and probably the other person on the line.
Instead, you would take the conversation to a private place.
3) You would never snap at the 16-year-old at the drive-thru for omitting your French fries because he would be the neighborhood kid who brought your puppy home safely when she escaped.
Instead of being rude, you would politely request the missing item or silently thank him for sparing you the excess fat and cholesterol.
4) You would never leave home looking like you had just rolled out of bed because you would run into not one but several people you knew.
Instead, you would make sure you were presentable when your mother’s best friend and the acquaintance who just gave you a business referral spotted you in the produce isle.
5) You would never promise to provide a service and then not follow through because the people you’d let down would be the same ones you pray alongside in your house of worship.
Instead, you would go the extra mile to do your job and follow through to make sure everyone was satisfied.
6) You would never shout or curse in public because you would not risk behaving in ways that could cause friends and acquaintances to think less of you.
Instead, you would keep your cool and deal with the issue rationally.
7) You would never ignore a pack of kids who were about to get into trouble because you would know that their parents would count on you to intervene.
Instead, you would break them up, send them home, and tell their parents for good measure.
8) You would never attempt to get something for nothing—whether a product or a service—because you would know just how much the provider counts on the income she generates from sales to support her family.
Instead, you would pay the asking price for the product or service (or a previously negotiated amounted), taking nothing more than a legitimately offered free sample.
9) You would never write anything in an email that you would not express to the individual face-to-face because you would inevitably meet that person at a social or business function and end up face-to-face after all.
Instead, you would choose your words wisely.
10) You would never exaggerate your credentials or pretend to be someone you are not because your audience would already know everything about you—even how many times you fell off your bike and scraped your knees when you were little.
Instead, you would simply be yourself.
Please understand that I would never presume that you would conduct yourself in any manner that did not pass the small-town standard for gracious. My only point is that it doesn’t hurt any of us to be reminded, every now and then, that everything we say and do has in impact—even if convinced that we will never face the recipient of our actions again.
Can you think of anything else “you” would never do if you lived in a small town? Please add to the list!
Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady