Why Community is Overrated

After a long trip, it takes a little time to decompress and to find the inspiration to post here. Actually writing helps to unclog the pipes, so to speak.

New readers will not be aware that I’ve operated a small, independent bookstore for the last 14 years. Having a small retail store mitigates against frequent travel, so we generally choose a week in October for our “big” trip. Our town chooses October for a frankly mediocre “festival,” and it destroys all local businesses that don’t sell beer, so we decamp for more interesting climes.

Drinking cup

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing from our recent trips (May, July, August, September, and October). But today, I’m delving into the archives for a personal story that should serve as a life-lesson and does double-duty as a self-deprecatory fable.

In our earliest days, we had great hopes for being a place to build an inclusive community. Accordingly, we promoted a series of quarterly community forums dedicated to improving our local business environment.

Our first was dedicated to the proposition that our downtown could be turned from a ghost town into a thriving destination. A panel of citizens discussed how this could be achieved and we drew a standing-room crowd that pushed the limits of our fire-marshal-imposed occupancy limits.

This was “just” before the time when every human extant carried a water bottle. Honestly, it didn’t even occur to us to pay for 5 dozen bottles of water. That just wasn’t done back then. But we did provide plastic cups and tap water for everyone in attendance.

It was March (winter in the U.S.) – only a few months after we had opened our store – and, as previously mentioned, the turnout exceeded our most ambitious expectations. At the end of the event, of course, there were half-consumed cups of water scattered on shelves and tables all over the store.

At the conclusion of the event there were maybe 20 cups with a slurp of water remaining that had to be disposed of. Rather than dump each cup, my assistants chose to pour all the unconsumed water into a single large cup.

I, preoccupied with thanking all the participants but still eager to complete the custodial duties, found myself to be inordinately thirsty. I grabbed up several empty cups for disposal, but when I found a full cup of water, I felt safe in drinking it down, post-haste.

I heard a scream from afar.

I had found the “fill cup,” and had just consumed the late-winter bio-detritus of at least 20 people. I am, of course, today immune to practically all local viral and bacterial organisms, but at a substantial cost to that particular week’s enjoyment of life.

Last night, I told my wife that my travels and my having lived in a variety of places should result in an extended life span. In short, unlike those who have lived in the same place their entire lives, I have only been exposed to local toxins for abbreviated periods and should, thusly, have a few more years.

But on that Wednesday night and for more than a few days after, I learned what intensive exposure vs. extended exposure could mean. Boy, was I sick.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: