As I type this, I’m sitting on the front step of a local church in a quiet North Bay, Ontario neighbourhood, waiting for a ride. I’ve just completed adjudicating at my third music festival this month. Between performing, presenting workshops and adjudicating, I’m quite fortunate to get a chance to visit many cities, especially smaller communities. This month alone, I’ve had a chance to visit Cornwall and Owen Sound, along with North Bay.
Visiting smaller towns, it makes me realize how there are so many similarities to my home base of Toronto, yet it’s so different. Every time I visit an Ontario community, I hear the same story. The main employer has left town and the kids are leaving right behind them. The biggest employer is the hospital, jail or the government.
But the air is so much fresher and the only noise you hear, mostly, is the birds chirping.
That’s except for the constant barrage of cars. It seems like everyone in a small town drives. There’s no walking or transit culture. And there are tonnes of big box stores. Is this because small towns aspire to be like a big city and they need a Tim Hortons and Home Depot to feel that way? Where’s Joe’s Butcher and Mabel’s Hardware store on Main Street?
That being said, there’s something nice about visiting a small town. Strangers are way more outgoing than in the big city. I’ve lived in the Big Smoke for so long and I’ve gotten so jaded, the friendliness can actually make me feel uncomfortable. But that’s more of my problem since I’m the classic introvert-extrovert.
So small town, I shall visit you again. I shall bath in the warmth of your hospitality, but I shall not stay to bask in your comfort zone. I shall always be a big city boy. I shall be the one who doesn’t say hello or make eye contact as I walk by you. I shall be the one who is in a rush just because I can be. Nothing personal, small town – I still love you, but you’re not home.