Archive for Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Just some observations from the ‘corner’

May 9, 2001

What do you check for when you visit a new town? Do you look for schools, or check out the supermarket? Maybe you want to see the houses and make a drive through of the neighborhoods to look at the architecture, both new and old. Sometimes you might check out the fast food establishments and what the main drag looks like to get an idea of the eating and shopping opportunities might be. Some might look for government buildings or some other historic landmarks to determine what the community might be like. Personally, I look for something just a little different.

Sure, I make the drive around town looking for all the previously mentioned sights and landmarks. I believe that you can tell a whole lot about a town by the fast food and shopping arena. But the one thing that really tells me about a town is what happens at the stoplight or stop sign near the center of town. More can be said about the character of a community at this location than almost anywhere else.

Go to a large town and see what happens. Probably you will have a stop light there. It is a measured, controlled devise that limits traffic and regulates the ebb and flow of pedestrians in the area. "Don't Walk" or "Walk" are the commands that flash at you. You hear the sound of car engines revving as one impatient person after another tries to push the limits of their measured time and others in line. People stand on the corners waiting to cross, wrapped in self-isolation, oblivious to others eager to proceed.

If the lead car in line is in the least bit slow dashing away as the light flips from red to green, horns honk, angry encouragement's are heard and perhaps a visual representation of frustration might be flashed for all to see. In certain areas of the country, a prolonged delay might gain you a bullet through the windshield or a strong push from behind as bumper meets bumper in a loving "smack".

The general impression, no matter the glamour, awe-inspiring architecture or the fabulous shops becomes one of tension and barely checked aggression.

But take our town

It is not unusual to find that cars stopped at the intersection adjacent to City Hall will have one or more people standing in the center of the street talking with the driver of the car. At times, one or two cars might be waiting to proceed on about their business, but sometimes, they too might get involved in the conversations. I have heard engines revving, but never yet in frustration. It seems mostly to be one of the mating calls of the species youngus drivicus americanus. Greetings are shouted warmly and people may spend 10 minutes trying to cross the street, only because they are involved in a conversation with someone coming from the other corner. The clock on the bank is often checked then ignored as a much more leisurely approach to meetings and the demands of school, ball practice and the other sundries of life swirl about the conversationalists.

Admittedly, this is one of the characteristics of small town America, but it is not common in all of them. Some have taken on the complexion of larger towns and cities or the culture of television sit-coms. It doesn't seem to be true here.

Having lived in a myriad of places in my life, I know that we are never really aware of our hometown like someone new to the area. We don't see those delights that others notice immediately. We take for granted the friendliness, openness and genuine acceptance that seem to be a major part of our town. No matter what happens with the Sixth Street improvements, new schools, more houses, better water pressure or any of the things that might change us, I hope we always will be able to take that walk to the Post Office, stop and chat with someone on the corner and just feel that sense of wonder that each walk brings. We must guard that with all of our power and persuasiveness. Every other change can be handled if we can just remember that stopping on the corner is a perfect way to get to the next thing on the agenda.

See you on the corner.

Monte the Dancing Bear as always. Baldwin City Recreation Commission; 820 High Street; Phone, 594-3670; e-mail,

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