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COLUMN: You can’t be a jerk in a small town

Unless you’re okay with your mother finding out
Kim Kimberlin

It was quite by accident I ended up back in the town I once escaped. But fret not, those who love it here, this is not a critique of the Cariboo.

Since my first departure some 17 years ago, I’ve found myself in many peculiar places. Some by choice, some just happenstance. Mostly, these places have been big. Millions and millions of people big, with never-ending things to do, money always to be spent, and while I don’t think it’s true that all Americans are rude (for most of my time away was in the U.S, and with Canadian and American family. I am not here to put anyone down), a theme I’ve noticed in big cities is how much you can get away with.

What I mean by this is you can’t be a jerk in a small town (although the word jerk is more polite than the profane word I typically use).

How pleasant it was to return to a small Canadian town (I hear we are now considered a city) and be greeted with open arms of kindness.

Just the other day, a vehicle stopped too far into the crosswalk. I was not dismayed, but as I walked around the front of the car, the driver rolled down their window and apologized for not stopping before the crosswalk. I thanked them, laughed, carried on, and thought of how many times I had cursed under my breath and, at times, aloud, at too many drivers for not signalling, driving slow in the fast lane, or simply existing.

At times, during Williams Lake’s “rush hour,” which is quite frustrating once you grow used to the typically low volume of cars, I’ve wanted to flash my lights at someone or honk because I’m being impatient only to realize that they and I both pull into the same grocery store parking lot, car front to car front, gazing at each other as we both turn off our cars and swing our reusable bags over our shoulders.

You see, I’ve come to learn that we are far less likely to yell and confront someone if we know we’ll be caught or considered rude. In a small town where I recognize someone almost every time I leave my house, it’s as if I have many little angels on my shoulder reminding me to be kind. I could be a grump, but then I’m going to face them in the checkout line and feel horrible about my asinine behaviour, or better yet, someone will complain to my mom, and yes, at 35, I still care about what my mother hears about me. As a teenager in Williams Lake, it used to be about sneaking around, but now I find myself sneaking into my mother’s house for a home-cooked meal rather than out of the house. For the record, I never snuck out of my house.

I should say, and not to make myself look better, but I do believe I am typically a kind person, but like everyone, I have moments of desperation after a long day where I simply don’t want to deal with people anymore. I also know that us quiet types can sometimes be mistaken as standoffish. Whatever the reason, moving back to a small town — sorry, city — has been a pleasant reminder of just how good it feels to uphold and see upheld the golden rule.

Now, whenever someone irks me the wrong way, I remind myself that you can’t be a jerk in a small town, and then I smile and go on my way.

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Kim Kimberlin

About the Author: Kim Kimberlin

My journey into writing began as a child filling journals with my observations and eventually, using my camera.
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