Thought Catalog
April 28, 2014

40 Things People Who Live In Small Towns Do

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What is the issue?
Have you ever driven through a small town (small being less than 10,000 people) and wondered to yourself, “What do people DO here?” I’ll tell you.
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1. Watch TV at home and/or take advantage of Netflix and OnDemand.

2. Go to the gym. Want to get in really good shape? Live somewhere where there is nothing better to do. Results guaranteed. It is also pretty nice to see the same friendly faces at the gym every day.

3. Go to the movie theater (if you’re lucky enough to have one). The town where I live actually has a pretty nice movie theater. Unfortunately, it’s inclination to play any type of foreign film, “racy” film, etc., is usually not strong. They also ALWAYS opt in for whatever Jesus/God documentary is currently out, even if they haven’t had the Oscar contenders. Beggars cannot be choosers, and I often times find myself seeing things I would never normally see.

4. Drive around. When you’re a teenager, this is way up there. The older people call it “dragging Main.” Normal people might call it physical trolling. Young people are usually just bored and want to be obnoxious, as is their right.

5. Walk/run around. I am an avid runner, and sometimes it is quite the challenge to create a route LONG enough for my runs. Walking around a small town is wonderful, but can actually sometimes get a bit dull. We are fortunate to have beautiful trails and hiking, but there are only so many places you can walk in town before the scenery becomes disenchanted. The changing of the seasons adds beauty and variety, though.

6. Go to Walmart. This is a real hobby. I’m better about it now, but there were times when I would go to Walmart about every other day. Before you sneer, keep in mind that for some towns, there is NO other option for basic necessities. Walmart facilitates Redbox, buying DVDs, food, walking around, browsing beauty projects, ideas for home improvement. It’s like a mall if you have your rosy-tinted glasses on.

7. Walk/run around with your dog(s). But you better clean up the mess or 15+ people you know are bound to see you.

8. Go “down town.” Look in the stores whose inventory most likely hasn’t changed since you were in three months ago. Buy coffee from your sister, the barista. Sigh in disappointment when there is nothing to purchase.

9. Go out to eat at the restaurants you have eaten at 1000+ times. Even the ones you’re not crazy about will rope you back in somehow occasionally. You’ll find yourself saying; “Well, we haven’t been to Dingo’s BBQ in forever…” while in the back of your mind, a nagging suspicion arises that there is a reason you haven’t been. You’ll be sitting there eating a terrible $16 salad with frozen shrimp on it and half way through you’ll ask, “Why did I come back here?” C’est la vie.

10. Go to the bar. Shocking, I know. The town watering-hole is not a myth. It is very real.

11. Have people over to your house to eat. “Grilling out” is always popular among the males, and girls night in are ever being planned. Always fun. And luckily, when things start to get a little loud, the bars are walking distance away.

12. Open bar fundraising events. These seem few and far between, but everyone will be there.

13. High school sporting events. It’s real. Tim Riggins, thankfully, is not real.

14. Driving to other, bigger towns. “Getting out of town” can mean just about anything. The draw out is even stronger if places nearby have Costco, Target, or any semblance of a non-Walmart mall.

15. Go camping. The majority of the time is spent planning and coordinating these ventures, buying food from Walmart, and gathering the troops. The actual camping is home, but sometimes we all secretly can’t wait to be back home in our real beds.

16. Go to whatever lake or river is nearby. Think of it as grilling out, only next to a body of water that may or may not have swarms of mosquitos.

17. Have children’s birthday parties. I realize that people do this everywhere, but there is different meaning in a small town because it gives everyone an excuse to buy lots of alcohol and cook decadent food that is not acceptable for grilling out.

18. Get hair/nails done. It’s something to do.

19. Book trips to civilization. Having trips out to civilization to look forward to is really important.

20. Go to K-Mart. I never said that there weren’t moments of desperation.

21. Go bowling. People still do that. It’s actually pretty fun to get your friends together and see who can throw the most gutter balls. And is there any bowling alley without a bar?

22. Go to the bizarre drug store that carries things that you didn’t know were still sold. My sister and I call one of these places the “Weird Shit That No One Wants” warehouse. Their stock is straight from the 1980s.

23. Play board games. A new board game is cause for celebration. We have found ourselves ecstatic over new, less boring versions of Monopoly.

24. Imagine all of the businesses you would bring to said small town and much it would improve the place. We all do it. A business closes down and everyone has 10 suggestions of what they would put in its place.

25. Collect jobs. Most people I know have at least two jobs, usually three. Even people who make really good money find themselves with loads of spare time, so what better to do with it than spend it making bonus money? It funds those trips to civilization, or at least to Costco a few hours away.

26. Be on every committee/board ever for everything you’re even sort of interested in or connected to. If you’re a professional in a small town, you understand this.

27. Put on community theater productions. Involves as many people as possible and if you’re not in it, you can go watch. Even if you’re not interested.

28. Watch sports religiously. All sports. All levels.

29. Read the local newspaper (twice a week) just to see the pictures of everyone you know. It’s like everyone’s famous.

30. Complain about the local paper.

31. Talk about people who have moved away and what they’re doing.

32. Talk about people who have moved back and what they’re doing.

33. Have garage sales. Because if you don’t want your old stuff, someone else might not be going to Costco this weekend.

34. See obscure bands that come to the local bar. Apparently they had three #1 hits? You don’t recognize them though. Regardless, you’ll be there.

35. Attend every conference possible. Again, if you’re a professional in a small town, professional development (IN OTHER PLACES) is of paramount importance… for your sanity.

36. Buy businesses in town. Because why not? You need another (additional) job anyways. What’s one more thing?

37. “Get coffee” or “get a drink.” These are actual activities. I’m aware that people do this in cities, but in small towns, this is cause for an excursion. We will go out of our way and pay $6 for a latte that isn’t even good just because it is something to do. And you’re supporting the local coffee place.

38. Join the local Crossfit gym. Even though it’s $90/month and you’re already a member of the rec center. What else do you have to do?

39. Support the community. This means showing up for every fundraiser, continuing to go to restaurants you’re lukewarm about, and buying things from stores you don’t really need or want. One of my favorite things about small towns is everyone’s willingness to keep small businesses afloat. Sure, we go to Costco for bulk Cheerios and mouthwash, but when we want pizza, we damn well order it from our childhood buddy’s parents’ business. We support each other and we show up to events.

40. Enjoy the peace and quiet. Small towns can be maddening at times, but the peacefulness they harbor on a summer’s day or a frosty winter night is pretty fantastic. You are safe, you’re at home, and chances are, you can hoof it to the hospital or police station if anything goes awry. TC mark

Like this? You’ll like this: Rob Fee’s memoir of childhood in a small town.

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