When I worked in the Big City, I used to worry that some visiting relative from a small town would act like a rube and embarrass me in front of the fast crowd of world-weary sophisticates I was hanging out with. At any moment, someone in my small-town family might blurt out something corny that my friends would think was hysterically funny -- and then they'd remind me for weeks that Cousin Joe actually thought subways were scary and restaurants were expensive.
How quaint. What a hillbilly.
It never occurred to me that my friends must have had relatives, too, and that I had never met them. It was almost as if they were hiding them from me! Now that most of those sophisticates I knew back then are on house arrest and wearing ankle bracelets for some kind of securities fraud, or unemployed and working on getting "new skills" for the modern economy, I can see that they weren't all that sophisticated to begin with. They were just people who lived in the Big City.
Now that I live in a small town, I'm worried some Big City bumpkin will come visit and embarrass me in front of my friends. You simply never know what's going to come out of a city person's mouth. Travis, an old friend I used to work with on a long-defunct magazine, visited with his new wife one weekend last fall. Sue and I hadn't met the new wife, but after they arrived, we sat in the kitchen drinking coffee for a few hours and got acquainted. She seemed very nice and well-adjusted.
After a while, she stood up and asked directions to the bathroom. As she got to the kitchen door, she turned around, looked at Travis and said, "Watch my purse."
She wasn't trying to be offensive; it's simply something you learn to say in the city out of habit, though we were glad she said it at our house and not out in public.
Another guest, Ted, couldn't believe we didn't have any dry vermouth on hand to make martinis. He had to settle for some beer that had been in the back of the fridge for two years. I tried to tell him that we're so relaxed here, compared to what we were like in the city, that we've gradually stopped drinking.
It's true: I've gone from being a Type A personality to a Type F. Sue says if I get any lazier she'll have me upholstered. Ted asked me where everybody goes on Saturday night around here, and I said, "The living room." He thought that was the name of a bar. Maybe it should be.
"Mommy, where's Daddy?"
"For the hundredth time, he's in the Living Room!"
"But I don't see him there."
"Count your blessings."
This past weekend, Norman, another old friend, called to say he was coming our way. At first I thought, gee, we have no big tourist attractions around here -- no big museums, no splashy musicals, no TV shows being shot here, no five-star restaurants. What are we going to do with this guy? Take him with us to a potluck dinner we've been invited to? Who knows what's going to come out of his mouth? Go see the girls' basketball game down at the high school? How's that going to compare to a Broadway musical?
But that's what we did, and he had a wonderful time. He wants to leave the city and move next to us. It turns out that he doesn't go to the museums and plays anymore.
"Those are for the tourists," he said, "Two-thirds of all tickets to Broadway shows are sold to tourists. If they depended on New Yorkers, they'd go broke. Me, I stay at home at night and watch TV. Like a normal person."