The Painted Post Epiphany –
Why I’m not excited about moving to the country, and so I’m writing this to save time and conversations.
TL:DR I’m worried that I’m going to be surrounded by stupid, and it may be contagious.
Some years ago, I was in a little town called ‘Painted Post’. It’s in Steuben County, New York. Population, about 2000 in 2000… The why isn’t that interesting, but the experience was. Please note, interesting isn’t always a Good Thing…
It’d be fair to describe it as a one horse town – a single Chinese ‘restaurant’ that looked like a clapped out diner, a single service station, a tiny (but pleasant) hotel… oh, and the biggest K Mart I’ve ever seen – think of your average sized Bunnings, and add a bit.
Anyway – I was there on Formal night, a bunch of awkward looking kids dancing in the largest covered open space available (I guess K Mart doesn’t rent out warehouse space.)
The kids though – I don’t think there was anyone in a suit that actually fit them properly (which is an achievement, when you think about it) and the dresses were so out of date that even I knew that they were out of fashion… which I guess means they were due to come back into fashion in about five years? I don’t know, I was only ever fashionable for a brief period of time, and even then, it was accidental…
And really – it was amusing to look at it from an external viewpoint – I admit, sometimes I’m not the nicest person. But as I sat at another formal, from a much wealthier area, with kids in their high fashion, tailored and impeccable (generally) suits, and the dresses (that ranged from elegant to skanky) and turning up in their limousines and the stretch hummer… Wait – those reflections are for another time… But it prompted reflection – an epiphany…
I’d mocked that town, for its small town mentality, for its lack of amenities, for its terrible fashion sense (not for the name though, I love the name), for its distinct lack of civilisation (it didn’t even have a McDonalds), and yet, here I was, on the threshold of living in the Australian equivalent. (In honesty, I’m fairly sure that at some point I implied inbreeding – that may be unfair.) Here I was, preparing to move to a place where a collared shirt and jeans is considered dressing up (and if you’re super fancy, put a tie with those jeans, that’s the best look), where double denim isn’t a fashion faux pas but a statement, where sheep graze in the yard next door…
(And yes, I know, there are some good things, some positives, but we’re not focusing on that now, okay?)
The process has been long and arduous, and will be long and arduous.
Packing is epic – admittedly, we have the advantage that we have plenty of time to sort through things, but it is still a lot of work – if you pack early, you have to find somewhere to store the boxes, preferably out of the way. The walls look bare, and it feels like you have less space… The whole thing is hard to juggle with the kids, and invariably, there is something that you want that you’ve packed… (I shouldn’t have packed my Star Wars Blu Rays. Seriously – that was dumb of me.)
The move itself is basically a production, staggered over a week with different things happening each day. A week that will be frantic and tiring and hopefully not stupidly hot… and then there’s the six hour drive… filled with holiday drivers, and those idiots who drive below the speed limit until you move pass them, and then they get angsty and speed up…
And the real estate are being annoying… somehow, the real estate agents have lost a week of payments – and they don’t understand how to fix it, or even how it happened. They also keep responding with – ‘You should check your records.’ – No. You have some onus to explain – we’ve checked our records, and it looks like you’re making it up as you go along. It makes for an annoying exchange of emails – ‘oh, is this the problem?’ – no, it’s not, you’ve Pope Gregoried a week – we’d like it back… They’ve also dredged up the rent reduction period, claiming that it’s not on their records – it was a year ago – if it was an issue, it should’ve been flagged earlier… and whilst these things will most likely pan out for us, and our way (even if it needs the ombudsman), it’s an annoyance that I’d rather not have.
LJ Hooker, Thornleigh/Beecroft. I’m not sure I can recommend them.
The Fall of the Planeteers
The Planeteers (for those unfamiliar) are my team of experts (note the lack of quotation marks) that I honestly believe could solve the world’s problems if the world actually listened to us. We meet and discuss things, sometimes seriously, sometimes not – but either way, it is a great deal of fun…
The move will make it that much harder to actually meet, and as for their replaceability – well, even assuming a one in a million figure, which is unfair, means that for each, there are four equivalents (maybe) in NSW, and the odds of that in an effective pool of maybe fifty thousand? And to get four from four? One, maybe… maybe. (I was never great at maths, but it seems the odds are low.)
So, do we replace them? How effective are Art, Metallurgy, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry at solving the world’s problems? (It’s certainly possible, but much much slower…) And what are the odds of even meeting these experts? And even then – it’s missing the history of the group… Really – you can’t replace old friends – and whilst you don’t (necessarily) lose friends when you move half a state away – it does make it hard to see them…
Unmarked Trails: Pathfinder
Finding a role playing group may or may not be more difficult – finding an equivalent group, that will be tough/nigh impossible. We have a current group that gels pretty well, functions pretty well, and most importantly, gets along very well (although we do totally avoid some topics, but that’s okay.) I’d hate to give up on rpgs again (I have all those pretty, pretty dice). Admittedly, we might try Skype with the old group, but that’s not going to be the same as being there is it now? (Also, I’ll end up missing out on pizza…)
Even less social
A lot of this is about forging new relationships – I get that – but it’s always tough when anyone new is compared to people who’ve been around at a minimum of five years – and you know, I’m not exactly the most social of people – I don’t always make the best first impression… And even I, as much as I am loathe to admit it, occasionally need some social interaction. (You should read ‘Man of the Crowd’ by Edgar Allan Poe. Seriously. Here’s a link: http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/eapoe/bl-eapoe-man.htm I’ll wait.)
And honestly, I really hate the fact that I feel compelled to have some social interaction.
Uralla has a population of about 2.5k – which is less than the kill count I’d get in two games of ‘Dungeon Defenders’… I’d always joked (?) that I didn’t want to move anywhere that had a population less than my ‘Perfect Dark’ kill count (45K – I love that game), and that difference is kind of terrifying…
And everybody knows your name – but not in the slightly anonymous, let’s weep into our cups and get cirrhosis and only interact in the ‘Cheers’ bar sort of way, but in a ‘your name, your address, your car, your hobbies, your… everything – it’s much harder to hide, or be low profile – I get that they’re trying to be helpful, or welcoming or whatever, but I like to be private – good fences make good neighbours and all that – I don’t really need to know your medical or family history – in fact, I don’t want to – I’d rather fill my brain with obscure Star Wars knowledge, than the price you paid for your house in 2008…
And you know what, it’s not your story, it’s not yours for the telling. (That is most likely a peculiar quirk of mine, but still.)
At Ben’s age – I was living in Annandale – the Wiki tells me that there are 5000 people living it that suburb alone… This is going to be so very, very different.
Blessed Be the Internet: Shops
Less of an issue courtesy of the internet – but clothes… but it takes away some of the immediacy. There will also be some price discrepancy – market share and all that… I’m sure I’ll be able to buy cheap stubbies and wifebeaters… and in winter, a flanno for good, and a flanno for work. Yay.
Work (Sixteen Tonnes)
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest the teaching conditions are going to be very different. I’m not saying bad, but different. Yeah, different is its own kind of bad… But there’ll be more people to meet, make an okay impression on – more systems to learn, more stupid workplace politics to try and avoid.
Gross incompetence and or unprofessionalism
They sent out an electrician for the incredibly difficulty job of plugging a thing into the meter box. The guy had a combover that looked like it belonged to a Flock of Seagulls, a broad Aussie accent and most of his teeth missing. I have no idea what he said. (Although I don’t think the combover had much effect on that…) Of the other work we’ve had done, the bulk of the invoices have been vague -akin to ‘stuff’ x amount – not itemised, which, for most businesses, is actually illegal – now, I don’t know if it just takes a bit of extra time for laws to make it to the country, or if they’re just lazy, or stupid or don’t think it applies to them (like the bestiality laws I guess) or whatever, but I do like at least a some professionalism. Hell, one of the professionals we used had a web site that looked like it had been ripped from a MySpace page and sent emails to us in purple… I’m not kidding. And, well, the people who don’t seem to understand that household objects tend to exist in three dimensions… and the people who don’t understand how systems (politics, judicial, educational etcetera) work… And yes, I know that you get that in the city, but here, if you don’t like someone, you just find another, you can avoid them – there, you might be stuck with a toothless neanderthal for an electrician. That’s not fair. Australopithicus?
Admittedly, sometimes it’s comical in a sad way – the people who don’t understand how visual literacy works and create magnets that accidentally promote white supremacy… but even then…
You wonder how well equipped these hospitals are, don’t you? So do I. And yes, I’m sure they save lives, but so did Florence Nightingale. That’s not so much a criticism of the country so much as an observation that rural areas often get the short end of the stick when it comes to support. (Bipartisan.) Now, I’m not really planning on getting a disease that requires complex medical equipment and lots of visits- but I don’t think anyone plans for that. Although we’ll be in excellent hands if we go in with alcohol poisoning, minor lacerations from an altercation or accidental self inflicted GSW – why not both? (And yes, I know.)
Are You Not Entertained? Cinema/Culture/Food
The nearest cinema is 30 minutes away. It has two screens and Dolby Digital sound… I don’t know if it has a Digital projector or not, but I’d guess not. It’s not really optimum viewing for someone who wants the best experience, or a mediocre experience… So it looks like I’ll be doing some epic driving for anything I want to see in good quality (Avengers: Age of Ultron – Star Wars…) Do they do midnight screenings? I’d guess not. But they still have overpriced popcorn, that’s something right? (Looks like I’ll be back May and December 2015…)
They have a showground… it’s filled with grazing sheep. As a heads up, sheep make for pretty terrible gladiators – and they always ignore the thumbs up/thumbs down sign.
I’m really going to miss the wide variety of food… yeah, it may be fresher and all that, but what if I want good Mexican? Good Indian? Hell, even good Chinese (rather than a plate full of onion). What sort of place is it when the stuff you buy in the supermarket and make is more authentic than what you could get in a restaurant? There is a sushi bar in Armidale – but seriously – it’s been so anglicised that its barely even sushi. (I haven’t seen any raw fish, but they also don’t have any none standard ones – what is tempura?)
And do they even know what gozleme is? Damn – I should’ve made that one of the provisos…
And with that, how much other culture do we lose? Will I ever need to know about Diwali again? Or Ramadan? Will I ever be able to drop ‘Kali’ into casual conversation and have it understood?
Does that not limit our perspective?
Are these places the last bastions of general racism and misogyny? (Our neighbour’s sister married one of them EYEtalians…)
Am I doomed to be ostracised by people when I declare that Ned Kelly shouldn’t really be held up as a hero? Will I get ostracised for using the word ostracised?
Or worse, will I succumb, will I drive a ute, four thousand antennae attached, a bull skull decal, maybe a southern cross one to match the inevitable tattoo…
And that, my friends, is absolutely terrifying.
(Also, I don’t like peaches that much.)