When something doesn’t work for me, I assume that it doesn’t work for a lot of people. Like, if I try to put a dollar into a vending machine and my dollar keeps getting spit out, and I try a bunch of other dollars and so forth, I assume the machine is broken. I’ll call maintenance and report that the machine is down. When the electricity goes out, I don’t assume it’s just my house that has suddenly lost current. I assume that all the people around me also don’t have electricity. I call the electrical company. Similarly, if the Town run summer camp doesn’t work for me because it has odd hours and shuts down randomly on inclement weather days and I work out of town and need a camp that is reliable, I assume that all the other families who work out of town have the same problem. And I try to do something about it.
This is where my assumptions prove false. It’s a thin, invisible boundary, to be sure, but it is undeniably there, because I have run into it time, and time, and time again. Here, anyway. Here, in Washington, NH, if you have a problem, you solve your problem yourself. Even if other people do have the same problem, they do not want your help in solving it. They like it that way. It is what it is. We all will make our own way. Things do not have to change.
The town library does not have to be open on the weekends when most of us are actually around. Or move its book drop to a more convenient place like the parking lot. Or stock books based on specific book lists. That’s silly. Haven’t you ever heard of a bookstore? The school shouldn’t bring back its middle school or offer school choice like all the other surrounding towns, or offer different enrichment programs rather than the same tired repeat every year. We all went through it and it worked for us. The General Store should never be anything more than a run-down dusty Budweiser haven. What do you think we are? What’s your problem? Why can’t you be like us? We’re fine!
Get over yourselves, LLARCS! If you don’t like it, leave!
We finally did get the message. We’re solving our own problems, our house is on the market, and we’re looking the other way, as much as we can, when other people are obviously having their own issues.We can’t help it though; we keep looking up, out, and past the box. We see what other towns do to solve their educational issues. We see thriving Farmer’s Markets. We see after school programs and sports teams. We enroll in enriching summer programs. We know it’s possible.
So, every once in a while, I get sucked back in. I repeatedly offered to help babysit two kids who had suddenly shown up at their grandmother’s house, since I was home most evenings and they got off the bus at our house. I complained repeatedly of the poor quality of the artist-in-residence program that continued to come back every single year, and succeeded in getting a survey sent out. But my offer to babysit was rebuffed, and the survey came back claiming overwhelming support for the residency in question, and I was left, once again, wondering if I really did live in an entirely differently world than these people. I see a thorn bush and I want to cut it down so no one has to get hurt. But everyone else just trudges right through. Why eradicate the thorn bush when you’ve got band-aids? I mean, yes, there are other people thrashing their way through, too, and they do look like they don’t really enjoy it but, surely, no pain, no gain. And no gain is what we want.
Admittedly, neither I nor Lionel have the personality needed to gather and retain the sizable force of like-minded people needed for the changes we feel would solve the problems we see. My local Facebook friends have stopped commenting on my posts and presumably don’t even see them anymore. They don’t get me and my seemingly unending supply of issues and solutions. Even on the rare occasions when I do manage to spearhead something– a petition to the school board, or an Open Gym Night during the winter, no one follows up with me after the fact or offers to support the effort. I’m not a natural community organizer, and there isn’t any community. It’s a double whammy for the likes of me. And for the most part, the citizens of Washington, NH like it the way it is. They like where they are and what they’ve got. They’ve got their own work-arounds that work fine for them. They’ve accepted the situation like good Washington citizens. They even genuinely love it. They work hard and when they come home they just want to have fun.
The other day I came home to horse shoe prints in my driveway. Perplexed, I followed the prints down to the end of the driveway and then back up, coming to the conclusion that someone had ridden their horse to our house to see if we were home and then gone on their way. I went into the house, and it wasn’t until the kids had come home with Lionel that we realized that, actually, the neighbor’s horses had gotten loose and were in our yard. I came out and saw what I should have seen all along, two huge, unharnessed horses eating up my lawn. Then, as we discussed what we should do, the neighbor, who had also apparently just noticed their horses, came over the stone wall with harnesses. We offered our help. The neighbor mentioned, off-handedly, that she had just been in a car accident, which was why she had just gotten home. This was her way of telling us why the horses had been left unattended for so long, and not, as we had originally assumed, a veiled request for assistance. We offered our help again, but the neighbor just kept apologizing about her horses, while they stayed a good distance away from her. Finally, we shrugged, wished her luck, and went into the house. We could no longer see the horses in our yard.
And if you can’t see a problem, you won’t have a problem. Right?
It is what it is.