I am living without round-the-clock internet, and that is a good thing – I now read real books every day, and I think my stress levels are going down. If I need to check my messages, I can go to the library or the neighbour’s house. I say neighbours, but they’re kind of cousins, really – the woman of the house is a sister of my mother’s brother’s wife. My mother’s brother’s sons are therefore both 1st cousins of the daughter. In the evenings I am hanging out with her boyfriend Andy, an audio savant. I never want to reduce anyone’s existence to a blurb, but to some extent there is the “Oh, Will’s a nerd and Andy’s a geek – they’d probably get along!” thing going on. It is funny because it is kind of like, “Oh, I speak English and you speak English – let’s be friends!” It only works sometimes. But we are getting on very well.
Andy’s family owns a guest house, and yesterday evening we were speaking to a guest who was relaxing and enjoying a glass of wine while his computer was uploading his photos. He indicated me and asked, “And you are?”
I said, “A friend.”
I think Andy then said something like, “Well, a new one, we just met.” And that was true. However, I didn’t think the poor guest was up for “Andy’s my mother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s daughter’s boyfriend.” j/k Or perhaps “I’m his girlfriend’s mother’s sister’s husband’s sister’s son.” Yeah, the second sounds more natural when I’m being asked who I am.
Anyway – I really like it here. Everything good is within walking distance, and you can expect to get waves from many locals in their cars as they drive by you. (There are no sidewalks, but traffic is light enough that it does not matter. They’d have to uproot nice big trees and push a few houses back to install them anyway – it’d hurt more than it’d help.) You can also be yourself here to an extent that is sometimes difficult in larger centres (or suburbia, anyway). I joke that Sherbrooke is a haven for people too obsessive-compulsive to survive in the city.
You have everything you need here, too – library, hospital, post office, gas station, grocery store, liquor store... I mean, what more do you possibly need? :-) A large industrial employer? Not really. That’d ruin it. Everyone who manages to stay here has found some kind of niche. And everybody else knows what it is, so you always know who to go to for anything. It is also a good test of your ability to cooperate, which you really need to be able to do to make a go of small-town living.
On the whole, I think anonymity is vastly overrated. Part of the reason why Facebook is slightly more civil than YouTube is that it’s usually possible to link people to the opinions they post. I haven’t done a scientific comparison of public comment threads in both, though. Yes, there are times when anonymity can be used for good – for example, to express viewpoints that aren’t socially or legally supported. But in terms of living in a community, it’s better that everybody knows each other. Without that, I don’t even think it’s really a community. It’s just a bunch of houses – geographically close, socially isolated.
But neighbourhoods within cities have the power to be communities, too. You might get the best of both worlds that way. And here is what a friend of mine is doing for his birthday party:
Dive bar for rock climbing pre-drinks
Rock climbing (indoor kind)
English pub for post-climbing drinks
Potentially play with bamboo swords in some open grassy area
That's inarguably epic. Wish I could go!