I grew up in a small town—in the same small town where generations of my family grew up. No one ever questioned whether or not I belonged, but outsiders who moved in had to work extra hard to earn the town-folk’s trust. For the first time ever, I experienced this “hometown” attitude as an outsider.
I have a part time job that requires me to travel to other small towns in Wyoming, taking care of the kind of candy machines you find lining the walls at supermarket checkouts.
This week after refilling all the machines, I looked over to see a boy about ten-years-old lifting the lid on one of the gumball machines. I rushed over before his reaching hand touched the product.
“No, no. Don’t touch that,” I told the boy, and lowered the lid back down.
Not two minutes later here comes a woman towing the same boy with her. “Do you work these machines?”
“Yes,” I said. “Is there something I can help you with?”
“You were mean to my son.”
“Ma’am, I wasn’t mean. He was reaching into one of the gum machines. I told him not the touch and lowered the lid.”
“You must not be from around here,” she said.
“Uh…no, I’m not.”
She rolled her eyes like this explained everything and stormed off, dragging the boy with her.
Confused, I stared at her fuming backside until she left. Why would it matter that I wasn’t from the town?
Are the kids in town allowed to touch other people’s food whenever they want? If so, I’m never stopping through there for a bite. Or maybe, since I’m an outsider that makes me a heathen incapable of being polite.
I’ll let you decide.