Not only are there fewer hiding places – but no matter where you go, everyone knows who you are.
That is what was hardest about moving to a small town. I still do not know everyone – yet everyone knows me.
In the Super-Value or at the Quickie-Mart, someone will call my name and I will struggle to recall theirs. But try as I might, I usually end up bruising their feelings by failing to recognize them.
I really should know these people.
Seriously, I should.
Almost once a month I get together with them in a church basement or an American Legion hall to attend a fundraiser. It is a staple of small-town life and it speaks well of the people who live here.
But these social occasions also follow the same script.
Here is the one from last week.
As soon as we walked into the Legion Hall, I made a beeline for the two-dollar beer while my wife joined the crowd at the silent auction. An hour later, she slid onto the stool next to me and began fidgeting like a little girl. She wanted to tell me something – but didn’t want to just come out and say it.
I put it off for as long as I could, “What did you bid on?”
(groan) “Do we really need another? We have a closet full of them.”
“Not like this..”
“Honey, we have too much stuff as it is… If you are going to bid on something, bid on something small.”
Then she got really excited.
“You want me to ask what else you bid on, don’t you?”
“Why would you say that?”
“Okay, I won’t ask.”
“I bid on a maid.”
“A day of house-cleaning services!!!!”
That is when I went into full hypocrisy mode. First I told her it was the best idea she ever had. Next, I excused myself and located the bid sheet.
I considered out-bidding her using a bogus name but dismissed the idea because everyone in a small town knows everyone else and everyone would know it was me.
So I looked at the bid above my wife’s name.
A few minutes later, I pulled aside the brother of the spouse of one of my wife’s cousins.
“Hi Greg,” he said.
Only knowing his last name from the bid sheet, I said, “Anderson, you and me got ourselves a problem.”
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Your wife and my wife are bidding against each other on a day of Sheryl’s House-Cleaning Services.”
“You know what that means, don’t you?” I said.
“I dunno,” he said, “Sheryl does a great job and she always needs the work.”
“That ain’t what I’m getting at,” I told him, “Let me spell it out for you. What does your wife do before strangers come over?”
“Uh, she cleans the house.”
“Nuh-uh,” I told him, “you both clean the house. If your wife is like mine, she’ll have you cleaning all weekend because an electrician is coming on Monday to rig an outlet. Now think about it, is your wife going to embarrass herself by letting Sheryl see how messy her house is?”
“Good Grief!!” he said, suddenly realizing his predicament.
“So what are we going to do about it?” I asked.
“Let me think…,” he said.
“You know anyone who actually needs their house cleaned?”
He looked down the length of the bar. A couple of stools away, two sullen college kids suckled beer.
“Hey Tommy,” Anderson called, “You want your apartment cleaned?”
“We’re sending Sheryl over to clean your rat’s nest.”
“Say thank-you, doofus.”
“Thank you, doofus,” the youths echoed.
“Okay Greg,” he said turning to me, “Use his name to double the bid and I’ll cover you for half.”
“Sure, only one problem though,” I said.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I don’t know his last name.”
Anderson looked shocked.