In case you missed the memo, we moved.
We moved from Los Angeles (which is a city) to rural Wisconsin (which isn’t).
Los Angeles County has a population of 10 million. The entire state of Wisconsin has less than 6 million.
However, we didn’t do the obvious thing and move to one of the adorable two towns (Madison, Milwaukee) that people call cities here. No, we moved to a rural area where the nearest “town” is miles away and has a population of less than 500 people.
What have we done? I eat 500 people for breakfast! (Not everyday. Some days I just have eggs.)
Some differences I’ll include are regional differences, not “city versus rural” differences. I know this. Don’t explode in angry defensiveness about how you live in a city but you understand blah, blah, blah. Nobody cares.
Like when we saw this ice cream sign the first week we moved here:
(No actual turtles harmed in the making of this ice cream. Turtle is chocolate and caramel and pecans mixed. Or something. I think.)
Or ordering at restaurants:
I forgot that people say “pop” for soda here. We’ve now changed to saying “soda pop” which makes us sound even more foreign and also from the 1950s.
And lollipops? They are called suckers here.
Speaking of food that nobody should eat anyway, I’ll just sum it up with this:
Even the sushi here (which I unequivocally do not recommend) has cheese on it.
(Feeling defensive yet, foodie Madison? You are landlocked. It’s okay. Nobody expects you to have decent sushi. Stick to that farm-to-table and “biggest farmer’s market in the country” thing you rock at. PS – You also suck at tacos. Work on this, okay?)
One last regional difference to get out of the way. It’s a big one.
There isn’t much diversity here. There is one main religion.
It’s called Sports.
There are other minority religions around, like Hunting, Beer, Cheese and Brats – but Sports is by far the most widely worshipped.
This is a huge contrast to Los Angeles, where the most popular religion is Money. (Minority religions there are of course Fame, Plastic Surgery, Yoga and Complaining About Traffic While Stuck in Traffic.)
Now for some more general city versus rural differences…
The very first thing we noticed when we moved here was the s-l-o-w-e-r pace of people.
In fact, I noticed it before we moved here when I was trying to set up a storage space for all of our stuff. (We lived with my grandmother for a month while we got to know different areas and house hunted. Thus, our stuff went into storage.)
What would have taken four minutes in the city takes 20 minutes in the country. However, I did learn the name of his dog. It was Butterscotch.
I still have to intentionally slow myself down. After decades in the city, being, um, nice doesn’t come naturally to me anymore.
However, there is one area where I have to go faster.
I come from Los Angeles where we have freeways that we regard with such great reverence that we put a “the” in front of them. (It’s not 101 freeway, it’s the 101 freeway. It’s not 405, it’s the 405.) So I know how to drive.
I just don’t know how to drive fast. Do you know how often I drove 70 mph in the city over the last two decades? Never. Not even once.
In the country it’s all wide open roads and you can go super fast. It’s scary as shit.
Especially because we have our own three unique forms of traffic issues here and none of them mix well with speedy driving.
The Three Rural Driving Hazards:
- Very slow things
- Things that make the road difficult to drive on
- Things that jump into the road unexpectedly
Amish buggies, tractors. You get it. Things that go slow but also have every right to use the road right in front of you. Slowly. Especially in hilly and curvy areas where you can’t pass them.
Roads with cows on them are difficult to drive on. Bumpy.
I have encountered every one of these at least once. Plus more. Like turtles. They are slow and in the road so you have to stop your car, get out and pick up the turtle and move him to the side he was heading to. Also, the ducks of a neighbor’s farm love to splash in potholes in the road in summer so I have to watch out for those guys after it rains. (Ah yes, add potholes big enough for ducks to splash in to this list.)
These are the scariest driving hazards. Especially at night. Every night something sprints across the road in front of my car. Also, opossum and skunks. And cranes! So many of those. I had to stop once for a mink and once for a woodchuck too. And an owl that swooped down! (Can you tell I’m not complaining? All the wildlife amazes me. Right before I almost hit it with my car.)
But I would be seriously lacking if I didn’t mention something that absolutely stunned us when we first moved here.
Darkness in the city happens only when you close your eyes or are indoors with blackout curtains. I had forgotten what real outside darkness was like.
Darkness in the country is enveloping. It is being wrapped in black velvet topped with abundant, sparkly diamonds. It’s breathtaking and humbling.
And also full of mosquitoes.
Either that or really fucking cold. (Those are the two seasons. Itchy or cold.)
Lastly, I’d like to share a little bit about the people.
As I mentioned, there are less people here. That means I am no longer city invisible.
I miss city invisible. City invisible is easy. City invisible means you can go to a store or a restaurant and you are unlikely to see any of those same people ever again in your life. You can wear pajamas. You can fart loudly. Your kids can have a fit. You can trip and knock over an entire shelf of picture frames. Nothing that happens matters because nobody will remember you the minute you walk out the door. It’s brilliant.
In the country you go to a store and you will see those same exact people over and over again all over town. What is worse, they might already know who you are the minute you walk in the door.
Like that time I walked into a garden shop and the owner said:
Not only did she know who I was, but she knew I was in the middle of building a chicken coop. (Now when I say “know who I was” I don’t mean writer of Crappy Pictures, thankfully. I think I’d faint and go into hiding if that happened. Just the “new family who bought the so and so’s property” level of know who I am.)
And the people out in the country are just so…different. Nice. Helpful. Friendly.
Do you know what happened when we moved into our new house out in the country?
Neighbors showed up and introduced themselves. There was a stretch of a couple weeks where I had to be wearing something other than pajamas every single day just to answer the door and accept trays of brownies. (I’m sure I did it all wrong too, I was probably supposed to invite them in and offer coffee and pie but I didn’t ever. In the city we’d generally just hide when the doorbell rang so the fact that I’m even answering the damn door is a big step for me, okay?)
Fast forward a tiny bit…
After living here for a few months and finally establishing a bit of a weekly routine with classes for the kids, library trips and such, we started to feel like we actually belonged.
There was one moment that sealed the deal…
We are at our cafe. I say “our cafe” because it is the cafe that we go to each Friday while Crappy Boy takes drum lessons down the street. Same time, same day for several weeks.
Our waitress knows us, knows our order (coffee for me and Crappy Papa, raspberry tea for Crappy Baby with a cup of ice to cool it down faster) and she gets it for us without asking, the minute we walk in the door and sit at our table. Table 3.
We are about to leave and Crappy Papa goes up to pay. The owner is behind the counter and says:
Now a normal person from the country would say “thank you!” And leave.
We are not normal people. We are city people. Nothing is free in the city.
We don’t trust anything.
So Crappy Papa says:
And he says it like a huge asshole. All suspicious and doubtful.
But I’m right there with him, watching from the booth thinking “Just take our money! Why won’t they take our money? Oh no, are they saying we can’t come here anymore?”
And finally the poor owner backtracks and has to explain his kindness:
And then he calls us a term that even city people know and yearn for.
We’ve made it. We’ve made it our home.
Have you moved? Any regional differences that surprised you? Or city versus rural differences? Tell me some stories.
Thank you so much for all your Coloring Book orders! I really, really appreciate the support. There will be fun contests/giveaways related to the coloring book in January. I’m waiting since many of you are giving them as holiday gifts. Can’t wait to see some pages colored. (At any skill level, contests won’t be based on skill – details next month.)
PS – coloring books are fun if you live in a city OR out in the country. Coloring books don’t care where you live.
PPS – I do miss the city, but I love the country too.