One of the things I love best about living in a small-ish town is simply that here, people are real. I hear about a politician on the radio and it's someone I actually know, not to mention the radio host(s) as well. This is the kind of place where it's not unusual to run into someone you know at the supermarket, and you're almost guaranteed that there's someone you know at the farmer's market on Saturdays.
My dad said once that, living here, he was always disappointed when he had to fly out and he didn't know anyone on the airplane. It only happened a couple of times. Well, the same is still true for me. I usually know, at least by sight, one person on the flight. It was very strange, however, when Shane and I were in Germany, ill and exhausted, waiting to board our flight, when Shane poked me and asked, "Isn't that Cort?" (Our veterinarian, but we're friends with the family. In fact, his daughter was one of my bridesmaids.) He's well over 6 feet tall, hard to miss, so I picked him out right away. "And Connie!" I answered. (His wife.) Across the crowd, neither of us wanted to yell, so we waited for a few seconds to catch their eyes before waving. It turns out they'd been in South Africa, helping a colleague at a wildlife sanctuary.
Even though they were just a few rows ahead of us, we didn't get to talk with them much. Everyone was tired, and Shane and I didn't want to get them sick. Still, it was nice having them along. They were even on the same flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks, so we got to spend a few minutes talking with them when we were all on home ground again, waiting for our rides.
If I had to pick one thing I love the most about small town life, this would be it. When you really know the people around you, nothing is faceless. Our veterinarian is so much more than just someone we see when the pets are sick. That politician is someone I've sung karaoke with (he's amazing at "Piano Man"), and the radio DJ is someone Shane has played ultimate frisbee with, and so was the ER doctor when I broke my nose. The head of my department lives in my neighborhood, so I get to see her and her husband walking their dog when I'm out walking mine. These little moments of running into someone, or hearing someone, that I know make life a little bit more human. They take me away from my own troubles and make me smile. They are the moments that make me think I will never live in a big city again, even though there are parts of it that I miss. I would just be giving up too much.
We had our first snow this morning, although it didn't stick. Soon enough my small town will look like a winter wonderland, but for now I get to enjoy the anticipation. And when I can taste again, when my nose isn't stuffed up, maybe I'll enjoy a few cups of hot chocolate as well. :)