We Cambrians think of our small town as being friendly and unique, and it is. But let’s face it, every city, town and burg in San Luis Obispo County is small, friendly and unique.
Compared to the metropolitan areas and megalopolises to our north and south, SLO County just has varying degrees of small.
When you’re little and unusual, you find different ways to communicate. Some options just aren’t available in a small town. Speed dating, for instance. Some others are obsolete; carrier pigeon, smoke signals and yodeling come to mind.
We connect here anyway, warmly, often with a hug or big, welcoming grin.
There’s email and social media now, of course — yes, most of us here do know how to use a computer, contrary to whippersnapper millennial opinions.
I’m even on Whatsapp occasionally (thanks to our granddaughter Caity), although I’m still holding out against Snapchat. I write and take pictures for a living. I’m uncomfortable knowing that, after what I’ve posted has been seen, it’s going to disappear into the mist, like Brigadoon. Why bother?
However, social media can have an impersonal feel to it, and postings can easily be misunderstood, or take on a viral life that we never intended.
There are always the old-school communication methods: The phone, even in its new cellular party dress. Or even hand-written letters.
How those are received these days depends on the recipients. I know some 20-somethings who never check their mailboxes.
Face to face is still the best, like old-style over-the-back-fence chats.
Fences? With Cambria’s hilly, forested terrain and mostly small lots, there are few back fences over which we humans can companionably lean, chat and ask to borrow a lawn mower, not than many of us need one of those on the North Coast. What’s a lawn, Mommy?
So, in Cambria, we improvise.
Many a motorist here must wait (im)patiently while the driver ahead of him/her exchanges the latest news with someone who had been driving a vehicle the other way.
The same vehicular time-outs are required for a bunch of walkers, who frequently chat in mid-street as their dogs share barks, sniffs and …. never mind.
Savvy locals certainly don’t expect to speed-shop through the aisles of Cookie Crock, our small-town supermarket, or at the library, or at the farmers market.
Me, I write for the newspaper, and occasionally, my interactions with folks in town and elsewhere involve someone who’s read my column recently and/or often.
It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling to hear that something I wrote made you think, laugh, cry or share it … or it enticed you to do something you might not have done before, or might not have known that the opportunity even existed.
Conversely, I also pay close attention when a reader says I’ve missed the mark.
Fortunately, my “Slices of Life” also function as a sort of back fence over which I can share observations, puns, family quirks, giggles and guffaws, events, news and more.
It seems to be working. At the hair salon recently, a retired teacher who was getting a new “do” told me, “I love your columns. They make me feel like part of your family.”
Welcome! And believe me, the honor is all mine.
It’s humbling to learn that you’d enjoy reading about our above-mentioned granddaughter’s new au pair employment in Milan, Italy … stroke survivor Husband Richard’s new little camera … and Son Brian being back on the golf course, having almost fully recovered from two emergency foot surgeries in October.
You’ve told me you like learning that our so-green meadow’s critter count currently includes a late-winter assortment of deer, turkeys, turkey vultures, a gorgeous red-shouldered hawk that lurks in our trees, a blue heron, eagles … and something wide-butted that I saw waddling away in the dark. It moved like a beaver but couldn’t have been, could it? And was that a condor? Really?
By the way, if you want to street-chat with me, I’m back to driving our recently repaired van. In the interim, I learned that, if you ever want to go undercover in a small town, try driving a rental vehicle that doesn’t look like your own.
I spent those incognito weeks waving at people who cocked their heads (a la RCA dog), giving me puzzled looks, undoubtedly mumbling to themselves, “Who’s that? Silly tourist!”
So, welcome to the Tanners’ back fence. Let’s talk!