In the absence of my own inspiration, I turn to Sunday Scribblings:
The other day my sister had an “away” IM message that said, “Going into town, then work until close” (apparently if you are currently a teenager this qualifies you to spell out to all of cyberspace your exact whereabouts at all times – I’ve stopped trying to understand). Precisely, this means she drove approximately 30 minutes to the nearest grocery, Wal-Mart, or the closest thing within an hour’s drive of a “downtown.” I know this because I grew up in Maine.
As the time that I don’t live in Maine increases, I am able to more clearly see the oddity that is the saying “going into town.” First, the phrase implies that you don’t already live in a town (which is actually true of those unfortunate folks who live in northern Maine, a.k.a. the COUNTY, in which case they may live in a place called “Territory #52.” Interestingly, I just learned that this phenomenon is not unique to Maine.) In fact, my sister does indeed live in the town where I grew up, however loosely we are allowed to use the word “town.” Its large area consists of long roads, a portion of them dirt, a medium-size lake, a few general stores (where you can purchase anything from beer to renting videos), a handful of dirt “pits” where friends of mine (myself not included, thank you very much) consumed large quantities of alcohol in high school, and not much else. To call it a “town” merely acknowledges that it contains a town meeting hall, a post office, and a school.
The “trip to town” is a trip not to be taken lightly. For instance, one must have enough gas to get to town, or plan for where along the way one should get gas. Timing is also a consideration as just about an hour will have to be reserved just for travel. In winter months, weather will also have to factor in. Thus the insaneness that is hoards of people crowding the grocery store before a big storm (it cracks me up that even people who live 5 minutes from everything feel the need to do this, but whatever).
Even though I currently live in a mostly rural area, I don’t ever hear this phrase. Anything you need is usually 5 or 10 minutes away (thank sprawl for ruining farmland to give us copious amounts of big-box stores). We live 5 minutes from a “downtown” instead of 30.
When I saw my sister’s IM message I had to laugh. “Going into town” seems like such a quaint notion – like receiving milk in glass jugs on your front stoop. Most of the time I don’t miss the inconveniences of real rural living, but sometimes I do miss the forced long drives to clear my thoughts or just listen to my favorite music. I feel like now I’ve got the best of both worlds – beautiful scenery with necessities close by. And occasionally before I leave to run an errand I’ll say to E., “I’ll be right back – going into town.” Just for kicks.