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760 words, with tag

I once lived in Taipei, a city of four million people crammed into a space the size of Ottawa.

In that environment, you develop certain customs and habits that are in line with sharing the earth and keeping the peace with your fellow city dwellers.

You spend your days trying to carve out some quiet time and space for yourself by taking a less-crowded mid-week train to the beach that may or may not return on schedule.

You have no idea who your neighbours are, who that barking dog belongs to or from where that regular 3 a.m. noise comes.

You have a fairly insular existence, because 90 per cent of the people you come across in a day are complete strangers with no idea who you are, what you do or where you come from.

Back home in Kemptville, Ont. (population 15,000), life is a little different. Here are some unique aspects to living in a small town:

Everyone knows everyone.

Even if you don’t know their name, you know their face and connections.

You know that guy with the blue pickup who does roofing? I need his number.

Don’t know him but I see he hangs out at Timmies on Saturday mornings with Ralph. You can find him there.

You have zero privacy.

If you’re a teen attempting to buy condoms at a local drugstore on your lunch break, you mother will know about your purchase by approximately 6 p.m.

If your marriage has ended and you’re back on the dating scene, the word will be out (and either single people will be getting warnings from their closest friends or your phone will be blowing up with matchmaking suggestions) by the end of the week.

If you’ve crashed your car, broken your leg, gotten married, had a baby or done anything that requires public services of any kind, you can be sure everyone from the gas station attendant to the bank teller knows your story and will feel comfortable commenting on it and asking you about it when next you meet.

Every small-town resident gets their 15 minutes of fame, almost guaranteed.

Nearly everyone growing up in a small town has been featured in a local newspaper article at least once, if not a few times. Many of us have even graced the front page.

If you’ve won a beauty pageant or major sporting competition, you might even be celebrated to the end of time on your town sign, i.e. Welcome to Franktown, home of Miss Congeniality Eastern Ontario 1987.

Small-town familiarity breeds a certain type of security.

We all know who the troublesome types are and we’re watching to see who hangs out with them. If we see you in their circle, even once, chances are we’ll be calling your mother.

When a new face arrives in town, they’re in limbo until they’re accepted by some of the established locals. Until then, we don’t know if it’s a good idea to invite them to the next book club meeting. For Heaven’s sake, they could be a Trump supporter for all we know.

You have a network of reputable products and services at your fingertips.

Need someone to babysit Friday night? It’s pretty easy to find someone who comes with strong references, just by asking around. Same goes for dog sitting, snow removal and lawn mowing.

And in a small town, you know you’re getting great services at a fair rate. Anyone dumb enough to deliver sub-par work or to cheat a client will be shut down tout de suite because word gets around fast in a small town.

Perhaps the best part of small-town living is that you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Many small-town dwellers live where they would vacation if they were city folk. Rural dwellers enjoy the best sunsets out their kitchen window and they can see the stars in the sky at night because there’s no urban light pollution out here.

We can run to the car or the clothesline in our underwear if necessary, and no one will notice if our husbands choose to pee off the back porch on a summer evening.

We can enjoy the best of city life on a night out or a weekend shopping spree, and many of us commute to jobs in the big smoke. But we wouldn’t want to live there.

We’re from the country and we like it that way.

Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.

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