The transition from urban dwelling to small-town living has been anything but easy.
You would think that 15 years in Manhattan would have better prepared me to deal with the hassles that “normal” adults face everywhere else in America. However, in my former town, a large percentage of the population, including myself, suffers from arrested development. There are many reasons for this, but some primary contributing factors are access to a city that is up and running 24 hours a day, occupants who share a blatant disregard for rules, and the fact that no one needs to own a car.
My first step to this ongoing lifestyle adjustment (and adulthood) was to find a car. Dealing with Craigslist in Manhattan was like trying to find an apartment in the city. Not only do you have to be the first caller, but then you have to be in close proximity to wherever the car is (usually an outer borough far away), and finally, if you are lucky, you get to test-drive the car and see what kind of situation you are getting yourself into.
As I know practically nothing about cars — okay, really nothing — the final step of this process was a mystery. Friends told me that I would get a vibe and instantly know if the car was right for me or not. As that method did not exactly work, I had to rent a car for about a month while I continued the search.
After tapping out friends who were willing to help, and exhausted by taking cars to mechanics to get checked out, I returned to Craigslist, Long Island style. This time the process was slightly more relaxed, but I still had to render the final determination. Exasperated by involving other people, I decided to trust the guy who sold me his vehicle. When he offered to sign a piece of paper that said he would buy back the truck if there were any problems with the engine or transmission, I just wanted it to be over and agreed. Now I own a huge manly-man pickup truck.
I sent a picture of me with the truck to my family, and my 13-year-old nephew replied “OMG” via e-mail. And he’s right. It is totally egregious. My dad liked the juxtaposition of the truck parked next to a Porsche, and my sister-in-law wanted to know if I had some Lynyrd Skynyrd to blast while driving. As a product of the ’70s with two older brothers, I found myself doing exactly that the other day, followed by some Bad Company.
Having a monster truck is kind of fun. People seem to move out of my way, (maybe that is not such a good thing) and come winter, a friend claims, I will be glad to have it in the snow. My buyer’s remorse has started to wane, even though that nice guy was not so nice, and there have been a few necessary repairs already. But now that the passenger-side window works, I have some cross-ventilation, and my ability to navigate the size of the pickup, as well as park it, is vastly improved.
In terms of fitting in, one of my co-workers told me I was a real bub with the truck, now all I need is a black Labrador to throw in the back. Another said I should put a bumper sticker on it — “Piping Plover Tastes Like Chicken” — then I would really be local. While the dog could be a future consideration, I currently live with two blue heelers and I love them. And the bumper, with its reflective tape, is the coolest part of the truck, according to my boss, and I am not messing with that.
Besides the blend-in factor, on a pragmatic level, the truck already makes sense. I live at the end of a long dirt driveway that is more blown-out than sections of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. A durable pickup covered in mud is perfect for the journey back and forth to the farm, as I affectionately call it. Yet another adjustment, my new digs are a world apart from my one-bedroom East Village apartment. The farm includes a goat, sheep, chickens, roosters, lots of land, a fabulous garden, and a house filled with roommates.
My city skills have come in handy. There is an ornery black rooster on the farm that most of my housemates are afraid of. Undeterred, I decided to give it a try and exited successfully with some eggs. My housemate was amazed, and wanted to know my tactic after dubbing me the “new egg girl.” As a former urbanite, I pretended I was on the subway and employed the golden rule, look confident, and do not make eye contact.
This did not help me when I was asked to help capture the bee swarm. By the time I got myself into my “protective gear” — long sleeves, pants, and hunter boots — two other people had arrived on the scene wearing proper beekeeping suits. Relieved, I more than willingly stood back and took pictures instead. Living on the farm and watching my housemates extract honey or gut a 42-pound striped bass up close has its appeal.
Other small-town qualities are going to take some getting used to. It feels like anonymity does not exist here. Friends report back when they have spotted you in public. People seem to all know one another. It has been hard to sleep without the hum of the city, and I only recently have stopped waking up at 5:30 a.m. with the light. But my transition will be in due time, as this city girl makes her way to the next country installment.
Heather Dubin, a reporter, covers planning and zoning for The Star.