A little bit of self-consciousness in a small town goes a long way

In rural communities, we’re quicker to see our impacts on others

Last weekend, I drove to the coast to reconnect with some friends, and for the first time in my back-and-forths, picked up a friend who lives in the Keremeos area, population 2,500 in the winter, perhaps even double that in prime fruit-picking season.

After catching up – how’s work, how’s life, when was the last time you saw so-and-so – we started talking about what it’s been like moving back to more rural areas.

My friend and I met during undergrad in Victoria, where we could throw headphones on, climb up onto the upper deck of the bus and disappear into anonymity on our commutes to school, to the grocery store, and really, everywhere.

He now has a public-facing job in Keremeos, so everyone knows his face and he knows everyone’s business too. Driving down the highway past all the orchards, my friend can tell me how man bins of cherries or honey crisps each one of them filled last summer (incidentally, last year was apparently fruitful for the southern Okanagan and Similkameen growers – he should know, his family has been farming the area for two generations).

The first day my photo was on page 4 of this paper, I went to a coffee shop and saw someone do a double take.

It’s a funny discomfort that we both shared with the idea of being recognizable, not necessarily because we are at all prominent but more so because there are just not nearly as many people to recognize where we live. Inevitably, it affects the way we – all of us in small communities – the way we act outwardly in public.

In my view, there are a few ways that such a self-consciousness can go. To liken it to a pilot friend’s experience, you can either be an F-18 fighter jet or regional commercial carrier (he works for the latter). Apparently, the F-18s out of CFB Comox on Vancouver Island use the call sign “Nightmare” when up in the air. The local carrier just uses its brand name.

“Nightmare,” in its name, in the object it identifies and in the impact those planes can have, commands attention. (Oddly, as a pilot of a commercial plane, you’re made aware that they’re near you, but they’re so difficult to spot in the distance and at the speed they travel).

Pushing the metaphor a bit, we all got to talking about whether we would rather be nightmares or regional air carriers.

I feel a bit like in smaller communities, many of us may be self-conscious enough to think that maybe we’re nightmares, in that we feel recognized, but some perhaps long to be a local commercial airline. In a big city like Vancouver or even Victoria, it is so much easier to be a middle-of-the pack airline, rather than stand out as a nightmare, and perhaps that’s why many more (it seems) try to stand out in a big city. It’s hard to stand up in a small community and be hardy enough to withstand what you may feel are peering eyes.

It’s a funny thing to consider, but by our nature as individuals I think there’s a very real chance that we feel like so many more people are looking at us than may actually be the case (thank goodness). I don’t think it’s a bad think to act as though someone else may be paying some attention – what we do impacts others, regardless of how we perceive of ourselves. You can be the nightmare F-18 jet announcing your presence (or maybe just thinking you are, but really you’re tip-toeing), or the regional commercial airline that buzzes along predictably and maybe even helpfully.

Even on the way into Vancouver, tearing down Highway 1 against the Friday rush hour traffic inching east, I felt a bit like the nightmare. Having been on the other side, dreading staring at the same license plate for another hour before getting home, I imagined that the drivers going the other way were jealous of my use of cruise control.

Realistically, they were probably just thinking about what they were going to have for dinner.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

Roly Russell, the predicted MLA for the Boundary Similkameen, and his wife Christine Carlson celebrate on election night. (Contributed)
B.C. Votes 2020: Russell leads as election heads to mail-in counting

Russell is likely to replace incumbent BC Liberal Linda Larson

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Most Read