A word on small town life and roller derby
Having grown up in the suburbs of Port Orange and subsequently moving to the bustling city of Orlando for college, I have always been fascinated by rural life, which is one of the many reasons I moved to the small redneck town I now occupy (another reason being that Orlando is expensive as all heck to live). My first month here, I had no idea where anything was. Although it is only a two-square-mile town, many would be amazed by my inability to find my way around a paper bag. This morning, I had some highly anticipated free time—most of which I spent sitting on my butt on the computer—until I realized I was hungry, and also, tragically, out of coffee. So I set out in search for nourishment, but found myself sidetracked by odd-looking houses, big empty fields, and pretty roads entirely shaded by trees and lined by historic plantation-style houses. Along my drive, I finally found the town grocery store. When I say grocery store, I mean this lightly; inside, it is smaller than most commercial 7-11 stores and sells pretty much the same things, minus the gas pumps, and it also contains a kitchen, where you can order a variety sandwiches, burgers, or fried things to dip in ranch dressing, and eat them at the picnic table on the front porch of the store (yes, the store has a front porch)! I ordered a cheeseburger and fried mushrooms with ranch from the skinny Italian-looking guy who kept smiling at me, and went to the porch to wait.
A few minutes later, an older woman came walking up and started chatting with me—another thing about small towns that I find fascinating. One minute, I am sitting alone in front of a convenience store, waiting for my food, and the next, some total stranger is talking to me like we’ve known each other for years. In Orlando, this type of thing is virtually unheard of.
So, she gets out of her car, starts walking towards the door, looks at me, smiles, and says, “Whoo! Hot out here today, huh?”
“It sure is,”I reply, awkwardly.
“Have you heard this July was the hottest ever? I mean, like, ever.”
“I did not; really?”
“Yep—broke all records,” she said.
“Wow. That’s kinda scary!”
“Eh,” she said. “Well, I’m gonna go in here now and get Mr. Cutie Pie to make me some onion rings.” This was clearly in reference to the Italian-looking guy who took my order.
I smiled. “Okay then.”
In the half hour that ensued, I learned the names of the two guys working at the store (Tony, for both), the owner’s name (also Tony, so if I forget any of their names, I am officially dumb), the old woman’s name (Pat), and the name of the “mean old wheelchair lady” (thus described by the Tony from behind the sales clerk counter, prior to being told that wheelchair lady, Chris, actually considers him a “nice young man”). Pat asked me if I had heard of “The City Observer,” their monthly circular paper, and when I said that I had, and that I had picked up a copy my first week in town as an attempt to get to know the area, she proudly announced that she is the editor and creator. As soon as I told her I like to write and edit myself, she began to hound me for stories, and asked me what kinds of lighthearted things I could write about.
After much thought, I told her that I play roller derby at the fairgrounds just a few minutes away. Her eyebrows raised in genuine surprise.
“What? Roller derby?”
“Yep; twice a week, we have practice.”
“Where?” she asked.
“Right over at the fairgrounds. I could write about that.”
“That would be great!” she said, “Oh, yeah; that’s definitely something people around here would find interesting and neat, and it’s so great that it’s local.”
A few minutes later, the Tonys came outside to smoke and join in on the conversation, so I told them about roller derby, too, and that we are having our last bout of the season tomorrow night at 7, and gave them directions to the fairgrounds. “It’s always a good time,” I said, “and, who doesn’t want to watch a bunch of chicks beat each other up on roller skates?” They said they might make it out there.
I guess what amazes me about the half hour I spent at the local grocery is that I went there, alone, intending to just grab something to eat to hold me over until I get to work at the restaurant later, and instead, ended up accomplishing both of those things, along with learning the names of some town people, all about the local businesses in the area and the people who run them—including the owner of the coffee and sandwich shop that had closed before I even had a chance to try a latte; she was apparently a former pole dancer who was inexplicably married to the city commissioner and, according to the old lady, “thinks her shit don’t stink”—and managed to pick up some free press for my derby team as well. Looks like next season might be getting more of a local following, albeit a slightly redneck following.