Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ten things I hate about my tiny town

As promised.

1) Lack of opportunity - The university is the only major white-collar employer in this town, and it employs only 125 or so faculty members and has no budget for spousal hires. Academic trailing spouses have no opportunities to find jobs outside of the university, since the economy is almost entirely agriculture-based.

2) Lack of diversity - This town is 93% White, Euro-American, although there are probably a number of Latino migrant farm workers who are not counted in that statistic. I never used to think that my home town was all that diverse, but at 79% White, it's actually looking pretty good. Also, that stat's a bit misleading, since there's a major university in my hometown and the students and their children are more diverse than the town overall. While we stay in this town, my kids have almost no exposure to people of different ethnicities. We lose a lot of faculty of color, partly because this town - which seems so friendly to me - is not as comfortable a place for anyone who stands out as "different".

3) Climate - I grew up a couple of states over, in a climate very similar to this one. I hated it then, and I hate it now. I never had any intention of returning to this climate.

4) Food - This is not a region known for its fine cuisine, even under the best of circumstances. In this tiny little town, we don't even have the advantage of restaurants and food markets run by people who aren't from this region. The only "good" restaurant in town is Italian. The name is grammatically incorrect in Italian, and the chef is German-American. There is no decent "ethnic food" (as we generally interpret that phrase in the U.S.) The closest we come is a small stand on the main street that sells Mexican fast food. Thank God for the migrant workers, who provide a big enough market for Mexican food and ingredients that the basics are always available.

5) Isolation - We are three hours from an airport. We are three hours from a decent-sized anthropology department, with labs, lecture series, etc. We are two hours from a town of 50k. We are an hour from a town of 10k, a mall, any big-box store, etc. Dear Spouse and I are the only two anthropological archaeologists within an hour's radius, and the rest of our department consists of a single cultural anthropologist.

6) Lack of shopping - Like I said in an earlier post, you have to drive an hour to buy a frickin' bath mat. There is one grocery store. There is no book store. 'Nuff said.

7) Lack of opportunities for older children - It's great for little kids, but there is nothing here for teenagers except getting drunk in somebody's back field and cow-tipping. I can already predict which of the (handful of) small boys in my daughter's preschool is likely to be her prom date. I have two colleagues whose children were high school sweethearts, married each other, and settled down in town. The first time I heard that story, I went straight home and told Dear Spouse we had to leave this place before our daughter is old enough to date.

8) Hours - Everything closes on holidays and Sundays. There are no 24-hour grocery stores, drug stores, or convenience stores. Many businesses don't post their hours, since they assume people just know what they are. Since most residents have lived here their whole lives, that's often true.

9) Landscaping - OK, it's petty, but I absolutely hate what passes for landscaping in this town. Apparently, the ideal lawn is a flat expanse of grass, with absolutely no flowers, bushes, or trees. Flower beds around the houses, often as not, have nothing but clean gravel in them.

10) Lack of student-oriented businesses - I never thought I would miss the strip of cheap fast-food restaurants, bars, coffee shops, book stores, t-shirt shops, etc., that you find on the edges of every university I have ever known. This tiny town flat-out doesn't have some of those businesses (like the book store), and the others are located at an inconvenient distance from campus. Sure, everything is walkable, but if you want to grab a quick lunch in the middle of a busy day, you don't want to take the time to walk 10 blocks to downtown and then 10 blocks back. I'm convinced our enrollment problems are partly due to the lack of service for students. Who wants to come to a tiny school in the middle of nowhere, and not even be able to go to a coffee shop with your friends?

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