Despite being located along the busy Grand Strand of South Carolina, we're in a very small town. Small enough for me to go door-to-door and ask shop owners if they wanted wider sidewalks on the main drive. Small enough that the state won't pave my road because the re-paving is already scheduled for twenty years from now, potholes be damned. It's not so charming sometimes, like today. The daily pothole torture finally caused one of the front grill panels to jiggle loose and fall off my cute red convertible, which now has a decidedly unclassy gap-toothed look. Our main highway has a hodgepodge of tacky signage, no sidewalks, and poorly maintained storefronts from the seventies.. Sometimes it seems like no amount of planning, legislation, or heartfelt beautification meetings can make a change. It's frustrating, looking at the same run-down property across the street for 14 years. It's embarrassing when clients call thinking they've made a wrong turn trying to find my shop - I guess they expect Beverly Hills glamour?
It's a small town, about two miles long and a mile wide, with a fishing pier and a new library, a dog park, and a Piggly Wiggly staffed by local high school kids. The beaches are nearly pristine, with wide grassy dunes and no high rise condo towers; when the tide goes out it leaves tide pools just right for little kids to play in. My dog Hazel lives for her beach days. We have a surf shop, an impressive new fire station, tourist attractions, wonderful restaurants. Things are slow to change, even though there's widespread agreement that it's time. We need bike lanes and landscaping and buried power lines. But there's a Southern politeness, hard for a non-Southerner to grasp, that gets in the way sometimes. Cracking down on a property owner is the equivalent of giving your neighbor a hard time. The niceness slows things down. It's been suggested to me that maybe I should move someplace more, well, snappy.
Then I have one of those days. The delivery driver drops my package by the house because he saw I wasn't at the shop. A young woman with car trouble is quickly helped to push her car into a parking lot. The surf shop owner brings her a cold drink, two young men offer to jump start her car, and a third calls for help. A passing police officer stops to see if she needs help, perhaps offer a ride.
I think of the time my car stalled in rush hour traffic on Wilshire Boulevard, in Beverly Hills. Even though it was blocking the intersection, no one would help. I was flabbergasted when a nice looking man with a briefcase stopped and said "Car broke down, huh?". "Yes", I replied. "That's too bad," he said, gripping his briefcase tighter. Then he shook his head and walked off. I hitched a ride with a friend, and called an amazed AAA agent and told them to retrieve it from the middle of the intersection.
When I stopped at thelocal bakery this morning, they'd run out of bagels. A year ago, the bakery was a just an idea; a friend asked me for help with the colors, and now the exterior has a mural, the walls are hung with art, and four nice people have jobs. So I'm happy they've run out of bagels. And if it takes a bit longer to fix things up around here, it's okay, because I've had a hell of a year, and there are times in life when a friendly face makes all the difference.