It was a city-slicker’s dream. A short drive took him from his hotel to the office to finish off some last-minute work. Another 15-minute drive and he was at the airport where his boarding pass awaited. Wheeling his Tumi behind him, he wound his way to the plane to take the seat that his local colleague had blocked for him with one quick call to a friendly airline employee. The previous evening had been spent at the local club. Work had finished by 6, and a quick round of tennis and a swim later, his colleagues had taken him to the clubhouse for a meal customised to his palate.
As the plane doors closed behind him, the man glanced at his watch and realized that less than an hour had passed since he left his hotel room. He couldn’t help himself; whisking out his phone, he quickly messaged his wife: “Let’s move town. Life is an idyll here.”
Big cities are full of homesick people reminiscing about the small towns they grew up in, remembering them as hubs of friendly and helpful individuals, far removed from the hostile characters who people the urban jungle they currently live in. They talk of giving up their jobs, selling their fuel-guzzling cars and moving to the hills to be one with nature. They romanticize small towns as safe havens for their families, with neighbours who will gladly chip in when times are hard.
But, as the conversation over the previous night’s dinner should have alerted our man, the concept of the idyll differs.
Residents of small towns are largely unmoved by the lack of traffic snarls and non-pushy co-workers. They see their easy-going neighbours as unambitious; the docile ways of their employees as servile. They crave the social and intellectual stimulation that they consider part and parcel of the metros. The young ones can’t wait to hit the big cities with the bright lights, amazing food choices and bustling party scene. The old folk talk about the good old days, when they were part of the buzz, and how given a chance they’d shoot back to the big city.
The grass couldn’t be greener even if the other side flooded it with watercolours.
And yet, the chances come and go, and both parties sit tight in their respective spots. The harried metro-resident continues to dash in and out of his boxlike flat in the city, and enthusiastically switches one harrying job for another. For his part, the small-towner spends his days in the office and his evenings reading in his quiet home in the quiet corner of the quiet town. Both let out a periodic grumble about life but, in reality, are content.
Not because the local water utilities people are putting happy pills in the water supply or the shift would be too injurious to the complexion of their Saturday nights. But because what and where people love is their home, which their hearts can’t leave and their feet won’t. And because part of the charm of living in the big bad world is the pretence (even if it’s to yourself) that you’ve got somewhere to escape to if you wish.
And so when the plane lands, our young man rockets out of his seat and to the front of the plane. He’s been away for a week and he can’t wait to get home. The move will have to wait.