Growing up in Atlanta taught me to be an aggressive driver. I lived a stone's throw away from practically any store I could have wanted to visit. Little Five Points and the busiest airport in the world were our playground as high school teenagers. It took 45 minutes to drive to my best friend's house - without traffic. We thought the roads were clogged then, but 20+ years later, I see how much worse it could have been.
Living in a small town has its trade-offs. My current hometown's population of about 50K is far smaller than Atlanta. Yesterday, I decided to take a thick envelope to the post office to weigh it and buy the specific postage at the self-serve machine. Harkening back to my Atlanta high school days, I recall using the newfangled self-serve machines in those post offices in the late 1990s. The one I encountered yesterday is no doubt a newer model, complete with touch screen... so how is it that it works worse than those machines I first saw as being such an advancement so long ago?
The touch screen failed. "Touch here to begin" resulted in no beginning, just an ad for a USPS service I was unable to purchase because of the failure of the touch screen. Since the post office closed at noon on Saturday, there was nothing I could do. I even peered behind to see if I could find the plug, because obviously this machine needed a reboot as the first attempt at fixing its problem. It was too heavy and possibly attached to the wall, so no luck there.
Small town woes - only one other post office to try. Even though I have previous knowledge of its smaller size and lamer overall services, I drove over there hoping they had a working self serve machine. They had no machine at all, being further behind in technology and more remote than my small town's central post office which had already failed me.
By this time I was saying things that probably weren't appropriate to be said by somebody who was trying to mail a card to a Catholic seminarian assuring him of our prayers as he finished his final days of seminary and approached his ordination date. You know, curse this stupid small town and its non-working technology, etc.
When I finally made it back to the local coffee shop to do some reading and writing, I had forgiven the non-functioning post office equipment and the absence of large-town technology in every post office in our town. I moved onto the patio to reread and edit the third book of the Chalice series - I think it's going to be called The Fire of Your Love, but don't hold me to that yet - because the shop was closing at 5:30 that day. Since I practically live there, they don't care if I stay on their patio. I even know how to turn off the lights out there after they leave. I was sitting in a low chair in front of a big window that has a high tabletop seating area up against it on the inside. Perfect spying position for whoever's inside.
When the shop closed, a guy came onto the patio from inside. "Are you writing a story?" he asked me. "Is it fiction?"
I told him yes to both, and then he wanted to know if it was realistic or something else, like fantasy or sci-fi. We had a discussion about his favorite genres (not mine) and how I appreciated the quality of writing and the themes in many of those books even if they aren't my personal favorites. I had to throw in that my teen daughter loves Lord of the Rings, though, and that I think Tolkien is brilliant even if fantasy stories don't resonate with me the way they do with some people.
When he wanted to know what kind of fiction my book was and I told him it was a modern realistic fiction with Christian themes and was signed to a contract with a small Catholic publishing company to be published in January, he said, "Oh yeah, I saw "Father" on your screen a few times and figured it was about a priest." I told him it was. We talked a little more about the value of classic literature and I mentioned Little Women as an example of one I'd never read until homeschooling my own children - and he'd read Little Women last summer for the first time. I got to go off on one of my favorite topics - that homeschooling my kids has given me a chance to learn and appreciate so much more than what I retained from my own school years.
And then after he'd left, the girl seated at a nearby table on the patio turned to me and said, "What's the name of your book?"
"The first one is called Firetender," I told her.
"I'll have to look it up, then," she said.
Small local coffee shop, the afternoon slowing down, people who aren't so rushed they can't acknowledge one another (because they won't have to merge into an eight-lane-wide interstate to make the half-hour drive home from the coffee shop)...
And just like that, the small town redeems itself.