My son called out from the back of the van, “Dad, you need to go faster. Everyone is passing us.”
He was right. The cars whizzed by us as though we had stopped to set up camp and put up our tent in the middle of the interstate.
Even my wife joined in. “You know, they can give you a ticket for going too slow.”
I looked at my speedometer. I was already going ten miles over the speed limit. I could just see a police officer pulling me over. “Hey, Buddy. I’m going to have to give you a ticket for impeding traffic. You were only going 75 in the 65 mile-per-hour zone.”
I thought that would look good in a court of law. However, I did try to speed up and at least keep up with traffic a little better because I was getting a lot of dirty looks from the other motorists.
We were taking my college-age daughter to a university hours from where we lived, and we had to drive through a big city to get there. The problem, I realized, is that I am a country boy through and through. I am not used to big city traffic. I don’t care for someone pulling in front of me when he can barely squeeze his car in between my front bumper and the rear bumper of the car in front of me. I don’t care for a car so close behind me that if I hit my brakes, its passengers will be sitting next to me in the front seat of my car changing my radio station.
I’m used to the wide-open space. Our house is tucked into a small country lane, and we seldom see a car go by. When we do, everyone runs to the window to see who it is. Most of the time it’s someone who is lost, whose GPS can’t even figure out where they are.
I have had some of my big city relatives tease me for the lifestyle I have chosen for myself and my family. I have wondered at times if I should have raised my family in a big city. I have had job offers from some large companies, but I always turned them down because I like the slower pace of my life, and I enjoy teaching students at the small, rural university where I work. But I have often wondered if my children have missed out on some of the wonders of city life, like Walmarts the size of New Jersey, traffic jams that are made by cars and not herds of sheep, and shopping malls the size of the town where I grew up.
Though I describe the city from my point of view, there truly are some wonderful things that are not found outside of a big city. In the city many things are bigger, and there are more of them. There are more museums, more theaters, and more of many other cultural events.
As we came up over the ridge and started to drop down into the valley on the other side, the acidic smell of car exhaust hit us so hard it made our eyes water.
“What is that horrible smell?” my four-year-old asked. “It smells like someone ran over thousands of skunks.”
I laughed at her farm-girl description and then tried to explain to her what it was. “Well,” she replied, “I’m glad I don’t live here. I’ll be glad to get home.”
I thought about the day before we left. We went out to our garden as a family and picked raspberries, sweet corn, and peas, and then we dug new fresh potatoes. It was all for a special dinner for my daughter before she left. The birds sang around us, and the frogs added a strong bass. The smell on the breeze was that of the wheat harvest in full swing.
As my thoughts returned to the present, I smiled at my four-year-old. “I’ll be glad to get home, too.”
But I realized that I occasionally like to visit a city, and I am glad that there are lots of different people in the world, each with their own idea of what makes life good.