Friday, August 16, 2013

small town intimacy and national privacy

We like to have our greatgrandson at our house one afternoon and evening a week.  As an older student, he is a school safety cadet and helps little children and large family groups cross the busy streets around the school safely.  When the busy time has ended, he waits for us to give him a ride to our house.  Lynn drove over to pick him up and after she left, he called from his aunt's house near the school.  Because of the weather, he had decided to wait there.  After the call, I called his aunt to say I might have trouble getting Lynn and redirecting her but while we were on the line, I was told Lynn was pulling into her driveway.  How in the world had she known about the unique relocation?

Turns out that as Lynn started to walk into the school, the crossing guard told her that he had decided to go to his aunt's house so Lynn simply drove over there.  Nothing to it, except that the crossing guard has to know and recognize Lynn as his greatgrandmother.  Not a small task, in that his parents, grandparents, greatgrandparents, other sets of grandparents and other relatives make a large group of active contacts and drivers and that is only one of 400 families represented at the school.

I grew up in a city of a million and certainly had no experiences where others knew me and my family that well.  When we moved here from a large city to this town of 25,000, our next-door neighbor had just moved to town from a village of 450, where he had been a banker and resident for decades.  Of course, he was familiar with larger communities but he was still a little overwhelmed by the steady hustle and bustle of his new surroundings.

After more than 4 decades here ourselves, we are used to meeting friends at the library, the grocery store, the polls, the doctor's office - anywhere.  Living in a neighborhood where a woman living several blocks away pulls into our driveway, gets out of her pickup, rings the doorbell and says "I've been wondering if you are feeling all right. I haven't seen you on your morning walk lately" makes us feel that the NSA has a very sketchy idea of neighborly awareness.  Our neighbors know which houses are our relatives, which are our friends.  Go ahead: ask 'em.

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