for release December 29, 2000
by Melodie Davis
Country Mouse/City Mouse
To the New York City bus driver, I might as well have worn a label, "country bumpkin" on my sleeve. I remembered that you had to have the correct change when boarding a bus there, so I carefully scrunched a dollar bill and two quarters in my fist, so proud of myself. I was ready for the bus. But, I had forgotten that "correct change" on New York City's bus system means "all coins." I proceeded to try and stuff the dollar bill into the slot of the bus' coin box.
"Lady, you can't put a dollar bill in that box," said the driver, shaking his head in tired disbelief.
"Oh, I forgot," I cringed, mumbling under my breath that it had been three years since I'd ridden a bus in New York City. I burrowed into my pocketbook for four more quarters.
At the next stop a tottery, elderly (my kids would say cute) woman got on. She was so frail she had to use all of her boarding time to get to her seat before the bus started up, without having a chance to pay her fare. She had her fare card extended and plopped down in the seat across from me, glancing around as if for help.
I said, "Do you want me to go up and pay your fare?" and she nodded sweetly. I took her card and tried to deposit it in the swipe part of the box, not realizing that other riders were just swiping their passes and keeping them.
The bus driver had to help me out once again, this time not even commenting. I mumbled "I'm not from New York City" as if it weren't already obvious. Sometimes I forget how rural it is where I live. One of my daughter's college friends, who lives just outside of Washington, D.C., came to our area last year. As they drove up the hilly road to our house, the friend exclaimed, "Oh slow down!" She had spied sheep on one hillside. "I've never seen sheep out in a field like that."
Another Northern Virginia guy marveled at our garden: "I've never seen corn close up like that before. Is there a reason you planted it like that, in three different sizes?" We smiled. So it isn't only country bumpkins who don't quite have things figured out.
I realize I'm extremely fortunate to be able to sample both worlds, city and country, through some of my work travels. One summer a few years back I dropped off my daughters in Indiana at my parents' home before proceeding on to a business meeting in Kansas City. I started out that day picking strawberries for my mom, and ended the day sinking my teeth into a luscious strawberry in the "Skies" revolving restaurant in Kansas City, compliments of a friend who had received a door prize treating four people to dinner there. I felt like Cinderella.
Our city friends keep us in touch with how much we take for granted in the country. Back in November I wrote about working together on community efforts like barbecues and pancake breakfasts. One Miami reader responded to that column, "I can almost assure you, from what I have read [elsewhere], that most of these people are over 50 years old," and he cited the lack of civic spirit among the younger generation, not willing to join clubs, vote or volunteer.
On the contrary: at the barbecue I mentioned, the fun part for me was working alongside the teenagers -- teenagers who were literally running and falling over each other to be the first to reach the cars driving in to purchase the chicken. One girl outdid herself flipping the chicken racks: she was so small I had almost warned the coordinator that she might not be able to handle the job. She did better than some of the grown men.
Again I was reminded of the work ethic we sometimes take for granted in our particular community. It's not the only place where people work hard of course, and there are slackers. But let's celebrate and appreciate the special gifts of city or country, wherever we're from.
For your free Christmas gift from Another Way, call for our wall calendar at 800-999-3534. Or write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 710 words; end material = 105 words
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