You read all kinds of things in the media about how our lives are spinning out of control as we race from one commitment to the next, fitting in appointments, and staying up all hours of the night to meet deadlines. Although you read it and nod in agreement, you don’t ever consider that there really is an option. It’s just the way the world works, and you either make it happen or give up.
Today I had the sudden realization that it’s bullshit. The whole world DOESN’T function on a Doodle schedule.
I’ve lived in this little community for 3 months now, give or take. At first I was excited to see a sushi restaurant, a Shopper’s Drug Mart, even a Canadian Tire less than 4 km from my front door. But there’s a whole other world here – this is a place where “buy local” is a way of life, not a slogan.
Even as near-city dwellers we learned early on that if you buy from the Home Depots and the Kents, you’ll likely get screwed. Why pay $2.85 for an 8′ stud at Home Depot when you can get the same thing at Heflers for significantly less? Not to mention that at Heflers, a 2×4 is the real deal. Even at Home Hardware you’ll likely get help from local guys who know their stuff, not some teenaged kid who thinks that selling you the galvanized nails is always the better option because they cost more.
But even at places like Heflers and Home Hardware there was a no-nonsense mannerism attached to doing business. You get in, you get what you need, and you get out. The customer expects it and the salesperson expects it. That’s just the way people get things done.
Unless you live here.
When our firewood arrived several weeks ago a dude named Dan delivered it in 5 truckloads, one cord at a time. Dan didn’t just deliver it, he also sawed it, loaded it, and owned the business. I was only here for his last delivery, but Dan dumped the wood and then stood in the drizzle and talked to us for a good 45 minutes. He talked about horses and chickens and how his mother in her 80s is only allowed to cut fence posts now, not firewood. He was a character, and in the course of conversation we discovered that he also sold shavings for $1.85 per 40kg feed bag. Freaking out at the prospect of paying $6 a cube from the Co-op, I readily ordered 30 bags, and Dan dropped them for me at the barn door. If we hadn’t taken the time to chat, we’d have never known about the shavings. To some, standing around gabbing for 45 minutes may seem like a waste of time, but in this case it saved us a lot of money, as well as time looking for a better deal and driving to get it!
Down the road we discovered Leon, the guy with the sawmill. We heard about him first, and thought it kind of odd when, rather than receiving a phone number to call him, we were told, “Go up behind the house and drive up the dirt road. His sawmill is up there and if you don’t see him, go into Tom’s auto body shop and Tom will know where Leon is.” It sounded like directions from a Stuart MacLean story.
We had no idea what to expect. We drove up, as instructed, didn’t see Leon, walked down to chat with Tom who assured us that, “He was up there just a minute ago.” Tom gave Leon a call, and hanging up the phone informed us that Leon was back at his mill. “He just went down to check on the sheep.”
We wandered up again, and there was Leon, a slender 40-something man with a welcoming grin -he looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. We told him we were looking for wood to fix our barn, and it appeared that he already knew all about us. We were the people who bought John Marshall’s place and he was happy to see that someone bought it intending to farm. We talked to Leon for at least an hour, covering the state of the education system, which vets we should or shouldn’t use, who sold round bales, and the pros and cons of llamas. Finally, we got down to wood. Leon advised us about which types and sizes would be best for our purpose and then we arranged to return with the truck on Tuesday to pick it up.
Tuesday we rolled into Leon’s yard and this time he was right where we expected him to be. We chatted as we loaded the boards onto the truck, and then chatted for another while. As we were ready to leave, I reached into my pocket for the cash I’d set aside for the barn.
“How much do we owe you?”, I asked.
Leon looked a little taken aback. “Oh, you’ll be back for more soon, so don’t worry about it now – we’ll figure it out when you get the rest.” I was ready to argue and insist he take my money, but I thought better of it.
“Well, I guess you know where we live.”
I can’t remember the last time someone ran a tab for me. It was probably at a bar, certainly not a lumber yard. But that just seems to be how things are around here.
Phil at the Co-Op knows what types of laying hens we have. Last time I went to buy food for them, he was tying up a customer’s dragging exhaust system with a piece of baler twine.
Mimie at the pizza shop knows that I prefer hot peppers and sausage to pepperoni, and without asking she makes our shawarmas extra garlicky.
The lady at the DMV didn’t just change over our vehicle registrations for us -she talked incessantly about what a wonderful car the Matrix is and listened with true interest as I relayed our tale of driving goats from New Brunswick to Mount Uniacke in mine.
This is a place where there really is community. Some may see it as overbearing nosiness, but it seems to me that people here aren’t afraid to really engage, to listen instead of just talk. In the city, people rush around like crazy in case they miss something. But here, people slow right down to ensure that they don’t.
It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to like this speed. I always wondered how people could function without a watch, but lately I don’t even know what day it is, and you know what? We’re managing just fine.