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Parts of Small-Town Life That I Swear Are Real

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

There are all sorts of crazy small-town stories going around. Since small-town life is all I know, I thought it would be good to address some things that really do go on in small towns like my hometown of Julian, California.

You will be on the front page of the newspaper.

As a small-town kid, you will make the front page of the local newspaper like 371 times before you graduate from high school. In addition, there’s always room for letters to the editor, so you'll also be a published author by the time you’re 21.

Directions are... weird.

They go something like, "You'll turn right a little past the gas station, but if you pass the school, you missed it." In my town, the gold miners weren’t focused on building gridded streets. They just connected one location to another with long streets that wander in many directions. We have street signs, but they don’t help much when the “front” of the house is really the “back” so you have to go around the “front” via a different street. Confused? Welcome to the club. On the bright side, there are no traffic lights in Julian so you don’t have to worry about running a red light.

Your parents will know what happened before they even get to tell them your side of the story.

Someone you know will get whiff of what happened before you even make it home.

Grid reliability sucks.

I tell people this all the time, and no one believes me. In places like Julian, you can’t depend on shipping, internet, cell service, power, or sometimes water. Yes, I know it’s shocking, but it’s true.

Most websites refuse to ship to a post office box even though we get mail only at the post office.

On top of that, if it comes through someone other than the USPS, you’d better hope they know how to get to your house, otherwise, your package will get returned.

Want fast internet? LOL!

You'd better be willing to go to the library because you probably won’t be getting decent internet speeds at your house.

Good cell service in the neighborhoods is a total gamble.

One house may have bad service, and the one next door may have great service. Don't ask me why.

Power is probably the biggest shocker of them all.

Between the local drunk hitting a pole every few month and the power companies turn the power off when strong winds are predicted you come to appreciate the power when it is on.

Everyone knows everyone.

Well, it’s really more like you know everyone’s name and or face. I have lived in a small town with a population of 4,000 my whole life. I consider myself very active in the community. I am constantly meeting “new people” who have apparently lived here for some time. Point being, I no longer believe that you “know” everyone in a small town. You know everyone’s name and the really bad dirt associated with them, but you don’t actually know them on a personal basis.

The neighborhood watch program is in place.

People from small towns not only watch out for each other, we are incredibly nosy. There’s a good percentage of people who move to small towns looking for more privacy. Hate to break it to you, but you're in for a rude awakening. Rude as in nosy neighbors who have eyes like a hawk and aren’t afraid to say something. We “know” everyone, so when we see a strange car, we will stare you down to make sure you’re not going to cause trouble. Nothing interesting ever happens around here, so the home improvement project you start will definitely be more interesting than the five o’clock news.

Being neighborly is expected at all times.

If you see someone you know, you are expected to greet them as if you haven’t seen them in years—every single time. Whether that’s waving to them as you pass on the road or wasting ten minutes on pointless impromptu small talk when you see them face to face, you must be overly friendly. Those who fail to comply will be called out and reprimanded. Don’t believe me? My mom and I were at a night football game when someone we knew called out to us. We didn’t see them because of the lighting and thought we’d misheard. The person caused a big scene when they stormed off, called my cell phone, started yelling at me, and didn’t speak to us for months. So yes, being neighborly is expected at all times.

Long distances don't seem so long anymore.

When the round-trip drive time to the closest major grocery store or to work is one to two hours, long drives become a breeze quickly.

We are very passionate people, and local politics feel much more personal here.

There’s no issue we won’t debate. Politics are more personal because policies directly impact our lives. A tax increase may not seem like much to you. Your neighbor, though, is living paycheck to paycheck and just can’t afford another tax for something that doesn’t benefit them.

You learn to move on quickly.

No matter what tension causes a divide, you have to learn to move on, run around like a chicken trying to avoid someone, or move out of town. You’re going to see people you don’t get along with around town. It’s incredibly hard to avoid someone. Most of us are forced to learn how to be acquaintances, at the very least, to keep the peace.


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