Back Where I Come From … You Don’t Have to Worry About Getting Stuck on the Side of the Road

28 Jul

Back where I come from, the small town of Eupora, MS (population: 2,300), you don’t have to worry about getting stuck on the side of the road. (Yes, I said road. There is really only one street in Eupora, and that is Main Street). If you get a flat tire or are in a car accident or run off into a ditch, someone you know or who knows your mama will stop to help you (or to call your mama) before you even have time to get out your cell phone and call a tow truck. By my estimates (and this is hardly mathematical), for every ten people that pass by (if that many people would actually pass by you in that small amount of time), you probably know at least half of them. Of the rest, at least half know who you are because they know your mama and them. And the others are probably some strangers who don’t live there. Here’s story to illustrate my point:

On one particular foggy evening during my Freshman year of college, my boyfriend at the time (DP*), my BFF (Kimmie), my closeted at the time gay BFF (JD), and I were headed back to Starkville in my champagne-colored Altima after a Sunday night service at the First Baptist Church. Thick fog made it nearly impossible for DP to see the road ahead, and I failed to remind him of the big, giant curve you have to navigate before you get to the bypass. As a result, DP drove straight through the curve, bounced off the “stop ahead” sign, and landed us completely unharmed into the ditch.

This was back when only the “cool kids” had cell phones, and Kimmie was the only one cool enough to fit in that category. After getting out of the car and laughing for a bit at how funny we thought the situation was, we called my mom. She wrangled up one of my little brothers, a pickup truck, and some car towing apparatus and headed over to bail us out. Meanwhile, we just hung out on the side of the road and waited for the assistance. Within about 10 or 15 minutes and after only one phone call, mind you, my mom, my sister, all three of my brothers, my dad, my uncle, my mammaw and pappaw, two ex-boyfriends, and a couple of random folks who saw my car and knew it belonged to one of those Hitt kids had all converged on the scene.

My car was probably halfway out of the ditch before an office of the law arrived. This is largely due to the fact that no one thought to call for that kind of assistance. Why get the authorities involved when you can handle a situation yourself? Needless to say, when my car landed in the ditch, and we had assessed that everyone was uninjured, I was able to laugh it off. I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to get my car out of the ditch or how I was going to get back home or whether or not anyone would stop to help. I lived in a small town. I had community. I had people. I had no worries.

Now that I’ve moved to a somewhat larger city, basically Nashville, TN, I do have worries. I don’t have that kind of community any more. I have friends. I know people, but it’s not a large number, and they are spread out over the greater Nashville area. Of the 2.300 or so people in Eupora, (10,000 in the whole county) I probably knew more than half of them, and half of the rest most likely knew my mom and them. That’s more than a thousand folks that would fall into the “not a stranger” category. Now, in a metropolitan area of roughly 1.6 million people, I know less than 100, maybe even less than 50. And only a couple of those know my mom and them.

I love my new home. It’s a great city, and the opportunities available to me here are vast, especially when compared to what is available to me back home. Though I loved growing up there, I don’t think I could ever go back. But I do wish I could bring that community, that sense of place, of belonging, to where I am now. Sometimes, without it I feel a little more lost, a little more alone, and a little more afraid of what would happen if I found myself stuck in a situation where I needed to rely on people, on neighbors, on friends, on a community that doesn’t really exist for me here.

Does anyone else ever feel that way? Is it a sign of our changing culture? Of the shift from the community to the individual? Is it time for Americans to start becoming part of communities again?

*Names have been altered to protect the innocent and/or guilty.

Related: My Hometown, Y’all

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4 Responses to “Back Where I Come From … You Don’t Have to Worry About Getting Stuck on the Side of the Road”

  1. Lori Monday, July 28, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    I know completely what you mean…

  2. laurajeanette Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 8:27 am #

    Lori – Good to know I’m not alone.

  3. Ginny Friday, August 1, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    I don’t know what I would do if I get stuck while Michael is out of town next week- its weird feeling 12 hours from safety. I completely understand.

  4. laurajeanette Saturday, August 2, 2008 at 4:19 pm #

    Ha. You’d call Jason. When my car died and Daniel was out of town, I called Brent. He fixed me up, but I felt really bad for imposing. 😦

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