The Cost of Convenience

When I told people that I was moving away from my small town in northeastern Ohio to the big city of Columbus everyone said to me the same four things. They were (in this exact order) “Oh that is so exciting!” then: “I LOVE Columbus, it is a great city!” followed by: “There will be SO many more opportunities for you there!” capped off with: “Too bad the cost of living is so much higher.” And I proceeded to nod and smile in agreement to all but ONE of their statements.

The cost of living is actually no higher here than it is in the region I was moving from. Lee, having lived here for over 15 years has observed on a regular basis that this truly is the case. Wages are higher—which is fantastic—but the overall cost of living is quite comparable. Or so I thought.

This week I discovered a few ways that a larger city is actually much more expensive than a small town. Lee, being a male, could not possibly have known about the disparity of which I am about to speak. I am talking about salon services. My recent post about beauty and perfect eyelashes accompanied by the gorgeous spring weather we’ve been having drove me out of the house in search of information on the local offerings in the personal beautification arena.

Although I have not yet secured full-time employment to help pay for these rituals, it never hurts to look… or to be prepared for that wondrous time when regular paychecks start rolling in again. At night I checked online for hair salons and during the warm, sunny afternoons visited a couple of nearby tanning and nail salons. Much to my shock and chagrin — it was officially time for my reality check and a reassessment of my rebuttal of Statement #4. Damn.

A cut and color costs twice what it did in my precious, little hamlet up north. And the ditzy, bronzed fetus seated behind the desk at the tanning salon looked at me like I was speaking another language when I inquired about anything at their facility. The only thing she knew how to do was blink, crack her gum and point to the giant, illustrated chart on the wall behind her… apparently showing all of the different options.

Without a little explanation, the chart, to me, may as well have been written in another language. I took a brochure (planning to decipher it later on) and passed by the lotion display only to learn that their least expensive bottle cost a mere $62 bucks. Top shelf lotions? Well over a hundred. Ouch.

But alas, my skin is pale, I need a trim and my roots are showing. I’m starting to look like Shaggy from Scooby Doo AFTER he has seen the ghost. And I don’t care whether you’re a small-town gal OR a big-city broad… That is never a good look for a woman.

I think I’ll start looking for Easter or Spring Break specials. Or perhaps they need someone to wash hair, sweep floors or clean the tanning beds in exchange for services while I wait for my dream job? Meanwhile, I’ll be calling my small-town stylist for an appointment the very next time I make it back to visit the family and slathering on a good self-tanner.

Everyone Has One

You know what they say about opinions, don’t you? Everyone has one. Everyone. And even if they don’t come right out and TELL you what it is… it’s typically written all over their face.

As I mopped up the remnants of the salt and snow still lingering on my hardwood floors from moving day, I reflected upon the array of varied encounters I’d just had at the local grocery store. Giving Kelly Clarkson and Kid Rock a run for their money as I boldly belted out and occasionally butchered their lyrics over the sound of the stereo… I shook my head, smiled and laughed to myself.

You’ve gotta love life in a small town. Or not. I don’t really care. It’s just that there are times when this unique existence is not for the faint of heart. Like, for example, when you’ve recently (and apparently shockingly to some) quit your “perfectly good job” to run off with some guy to the big city in pursuit of a brand NEW life. Just. Like. That.

It was a perfectly normal Tuesday afternoon in the booming metropolis of Minerva, Ohio (population 3,500… give or take) when I entered the grocery store in jeans and Uggs to buy some milk, cereal and cleaning supplies for the remainder of my time here. You know… to tie up loose ends, get my teeth cleaned, have lunch with a few friends and such before Stanley and I hit the interstate in search of concrete pastures.

I wasn’t even inside the automatic doors when I received my first interrogation. The second came in the produce department, another in the chip aisle and still another in frozen foods. Everyone… Everyone seemed bent on me answering three questions: Did you take the day off from work? Do you have a job yet in the city? Have you set a date?

Did you notice in my account of these interractions that no one… NOT ONE PERSON asked me if I was happy or excited about my engagement and new adventure? Everyone just sort of looked at me with scowls of confusion, concern or disbelief. Perhaps even shock and awe as they each, one by one—in the entryway, produce department, chip aisle and frozen foods—tilted their heads to the side as if to say: “Huh. I hear the words that are coming out of your mouth but I have no clue as to what you’re actually saying.”

Now what they really said to me was some version of: “Well then, my very best to you dear. Tell your parents I said hi.” And I happily pushed my cart forward… straight into the grasp of the next, fun, little Q&A’s. The future batch of opinions that will surely be waiting for me…

… At the check-out counter… in the parking lot… at the gas pump… the teller window… the waiting room…

Friday Night Lights

The season is so brief, maybe that’s what makes it so special. In northeastern Ohio, football is king. After all, The Pro Football Hall of Fame is only 20 miles away from my little hometown. Professionally speaking, we may have one of the worst teams in the NFL… but that doesn’t stop us from loving the sport. It may infuriate us and cause people to occasionally fly into fits of rage and throw things… but that’s OK. It just demonstrates how much we care.

However on Fridays, we tend to forget how terrible our pro team is and turn our attention to a different set of heroes: The local high school football teams. They don’t play for fame or money… they play for their schools, their towns, their classmates and teammates. And more importantly… they play with their hearts.

There is something magical in the air on Fridays. It’s as if the whole community is anxiously awaiting the upcoming battle that will happen later in the evening beneath the bright stadium lights. Businesses show their support by placing signs in their windows and merchants display and sell all sorts of items that carry the local mascot. Homes are adorned in bright school colors with flags and banners. Students wear jerseys, t-shirts and face paint to demonstrate their allegiance. And by early afternoon the pep-rallies are in full-swing.

At 7 p.m. it’s as if there is nowhere else in the world to be than at the stadium. The town is empty and the only sound you’ll hear for miles is that of the marching band and the voice of the announcer. The stands are packed and so are the fences that surround the field. Everyone has found a spot to settle in and watch their favorite high school hero for the next several hours. The younger kids run through the crowds tossing the football, no doubt imagining the day when they will be on that field and all eyes will be fixed on them. The adults are likely arguing about the official’s call or even more likely reminiscing about their own glory days… when they too were charged with the energy of youth, fueled by endless possibilities.

It lasts for just 10 weeks, a little longer if you’re lucky. And in that brief time the world around us will transform from the warmth of summer, through the brilliance of autumn and into the colder grasp of winter. The grass on the field turns brown and frosted, the bleachers stand cold and empty, the loud speaker is silenced and the Friday night lights go out. All grows quiet as the world retreats indoors and a few stray snowflakes start to fall across the faded white lines of a vacant field.

Until next year…