Small towns are different than cities in many ways, which includes how one interacts with fellow community members. People get nestled into their relatively small social world, know everyone, and become small-town yokels.
I’m not talking about the big things, like Chatty-Cathys with an infatuation with everyone else’s dirty laundry, but rather the minor and very routine human interactions. Like how one conducts oneself when encountering a stranger.
I’m not sure if a long-time resident of a Northern, small town (< 1,000 pop.) truly notices these unique interactions like those new to a community. Being a Cheechako by strict definition (I saw it thaw, then freeze, and not freeze, then thaw), I feel I am more aware of these little differences than the locals.
I am not from the big city, but am from a town bigger than 1,000 people, so I have the observant advantage of the Outside-eye.
And I have observed a few doosies since my arrival in a small, Northern community. I have heard more than once, the icebreak of “Hey, I never saw you before, what’s your name?” Yes, innocent enough, but definitely a small- town Northern line.
It is not the conversation that makes it uniquely Northern, but the rapid pace of social-steps. I have seen a small-town Northerner, more or less word for word, say to a stranger: “Hey, I don’t know who you are. Who are you? How long have you been here? We should have you over for dinner. Or, “Let’s go fishing next weekend.”
The social boundaries are smaller in the small town. I have seen this social togetherness play itself out at Northern pubs as well. In the Cheechako’s experience, one goes to a pub with a group of people, sits at their table, and mostly socializes with the group they came with.
But up here, in the communities more so, going to a pub is more like a team event. You do not go there to have a few with your friends, but rather participate in a group atmosphere, where all are welcome to go from table to table, with classic icebreakers like “I don’t know you, who are you?”
My classic example of this is my first pub hockey game in my little Northern villa. I suddenly heard from behind me a conversation regarding myself, between a customer and the bartender.
The somewhat inebriated customer said to the bartender: “Who’s that. I never saw them before. Can I sit with them?” To which the bartender responded, “No, you leave them alone.”
This was an interesting one. The bartender trying to reel in this socially at-ease Northerner, perhaps fearing this aggressive behaviour would scare the Cheechako customers.
This is not to be taken as a complaint about Northern, small-town friendlessness. It is a shame that the urbanites could not be so open and approaching. It is nothing more than an observation, from an Outside-eye, who thinks he may be becoming a small town yokel himself, and will eventually not notice these peculiar happenings in a small, Northern town.