Big city travel guide
A while back, my wife and I were picking up some equipment from my contractor brother. He lives in a cheek-to-jowl suburb near the Big City.
“Stand in the street, watch my corners and direct traffic,” he said to me.
“Sure,” I said. It was a warm spring day—hayfever season for some of us—and the neighborhood kids were chasing each other through the street and surrounding yards. Not wanting to take my eye off the space between child and truck, without thinking, I blew my nose— with one finger.
No big deal. Equipment transferred and tied down; we were getting ready to leave. My wife sidled up beside me and whispered in my ear:
“Next time you blow your nose, you might want to use a handkerchief,” she said. “The mothers of those children were watching and really grossed out at what you did.”
She continued, with a look any husband would understand, “I think they thought you were going to blow your nose on their kids. Remember, we’re in the Big City.”
“Yeah, right,” I said, rolling my eyes with a look any wife would understand.
We arrived back home, without incident. However, that got us to thinking about the preparations we’d need for our next trip to the Big City.
For us, planning begins with personal space.
At home, our personal space extends for about a quarter mile. For Big City dwellers, 6 to18 inches is tops—less on the crowded East Coast.
Without this mental adjustment, walking on a city sidewalk, nose to toes with everyone else, is like having too many pigs in a pen. In extreme cases, ears and tails get nipped.
Arriving in the Big City, communication differences are an issue.
In our farm town, people stop and talk when they meet. Chatting is a requirement. This is how far-flung neighbors stay in touch with each other’s lives. It’s part of the glue which holds a spreadout community together.
In the Big City, communication with a stranger—if it happens—is terse, direct and “in-your-face.” Shouting occurs in direct relationship to the number of sirens and amount of bus traffic.
Big City friendships are based on mutual interest, rather than geographic proximity. Neighbors are something you don’t acknowledge.
If a city dweller doesn’t know the name of the person living next door—they look it up in the phonebook. Assisting someone in trouble isn’t being neighborly. It’s called a fund-raiser and might end up on the nightly TV news.
When we travel, our stockdogs are part of the family.
Big City dogs leave behind the same sort of presents as those on a ranch.
However, their owners deal with the end-result differently than ranchers do.
Big City people carry little plastic bags in their pocket when walking their dog. This makes it easier to remove the little treasures their dog leaves behind. They turn the bag inside out, recover the misplaced item and seal the bag. Then they toss everything in the nearest garbage can.
This is where we get in trouble. What does a Big City visitor do if there are no waste receptacles nearby?
The thought of putting a bag of digested dog dinner in my coat pocket leaves me lukewarm—to say the least. After all, I have a good idea of where my dog has been hanging out.
At home, we scoop the leavings up with a shovel and pitch it into a field over the yard fence. However, I don’t recommend this method in the city. You may end up in a fistfight if someone's standing on the other side of the hedge.
In the Big City, coffee is stronger and more expensive than at home. Flavors like almond roca and hazelnut have nothing to do with a farm crop at the city end of the consumer cycle. Here, Starbucks is a coffee shop— not a line of high-dollar rodeo bulls. Nor is biscotti an Italian sports car. It is a piece of dry bread that Big City people eat with their coffee. At home, we give our dry bread to the chickens.
If you travel to the Big City—I bet you’re going to appreciate home when you return—we sure do. — D. “Bing” Bingham
[Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. He’s the one with a dazed look in the Big City. If you have any travel tips to pass along, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]