Monday, June 14, 2010

Giving the green light to smugness

When you live in the country, there are few opportunities for smugness. In fact, there are just three main areas in which you might manage any form of superiority:

Lovely scenery

Lovely fresh air

Lovely lack of traffic.

It used to be that you could boast of your vegie patch and your chicken coop as well, but every cool inner-city address with so much as a courtyard seems to have those these days, so our opportunities for smugness are fewer.

When they arise, though, they are sublime.

Take today. Fam Fibro all hopped in our new (to us) car to drive Oma (The Builder’s Mum) back to Sydney. She’d come down from The Big Smoke for a few days R&R from her hectic retirement village schedule, and we’d whizzed her around the local wine festival for a spot of tasting and fresh air, and a look at our lovely scenery.

The drive out of Fibrotown was sluggish. The early risers of the tourist brigade had packed up their holiday houses and camp sites at the crack of dawn to ‘beat the traffic’ home, becoming the traffic in the process.

As we crossed the bridge out of town, The Builder and I indulged in some healthy debate about whether tourists are best to get up early on a public holiday Monday and ensure one is home in time to iron the school uniforms, or if one should stay and suck the marrow from the last day of glorious sunshine before leaving for home, after dark and after most of the traffic. (I will leave you to decide who was on which side of this particular conversation, as well as just how much time we spent on it.)

So we deposited Oma at home and then headed inner-West to our old stamping ground, just for old times sake. On the way, we discussed lunch options. And it was wonderful to have such a l-o-o-ong conversation about those options. To have so many options was almost overwhelming. Almost. We managed.

We parked our car and walked through a sun-filled park in which cool people dressed in cool clothes lazed coolly about on blankets, reading (Proust no doubt) and talking (world peace, of course). On the main street, the buzz in the air was palpable. I kept tight grip on both my boys’ hands, mostly to ensure they didn’t get stepped on. We visited one of my favourite bookshops in the world, where Mr6 found a Star Wars book with moving pictures. Could the day get any better?

I’m here to tell you that it did.

On our way home, breezing down the almost empty freeway, away from the bright lights of the city, towards the brighter lights twinkling across a big, dark sky, we passed a line of traffic that stretched for miles and miles. Stop, start, stop, start. For miles and miles and miles.

That moment, when you are on the other side of the road, heading away from that traffic, away from the chaos and confusion, and hours of stop/start, is the moment of ultimate smugness.

Fortunately, we get to live that small thrill every night of the week. Traffic reports shown at around 5.50pm each night on the news show the helicopter view of normal city traffic. And every night I stare at the neverending snakes of stationery headlights clogging the city’s main arterial roads and think: “Geez, I’m glad I’m not sitting in that.”

Every single night.



    And I agree. We too lived for a long while in the Inner West (Newtown), before we eventually settled in Adelaide.

    When peopel ask is whether we miss it, we both just say "Who can ever day they miss that traffic? That commute?"

  2. You tempt me you wicked woman. This post made me want to up sticks and um, move to the sticks. You are an amazing writer. Just so you know x

  3. Oh - there are lots of reasons for smugness when living away from the ratrace. The quiet. The wildlife. The interractions of nature. The interractions of family. The inspiration. The peace. The serenity... The LIFE!

    But you would have been LAUGHING on the way home - swimming against the flow. :)

  4. Al, as I read this on a squished commuter train, having risked life and limb to drop the kids at daycare on the way, I honour your smugness.

  5. Love it :) Seraphim is quite right.
    Anmd one of the things I most like telling people about Broome (after the weather stats) is that there are traffic lights here. Not one. Nada. Zilch. I love living somewhere with no traffic lights :) Be smug. I am.

  6. Being smug is what I live for!! The only traffic jam we have around here, is when the cows line up for their feed of hay and they're crowding around the tractor, so much it's difficult to move! And really, that's NOT a traffic jam, as so much as a cow jam!

  7. My husband says he would love to live in the country...if it wasn't for countryfolk. How rude.

    I live by the seaside so we get to pretend we're on holiday every day. I like it best out of season when it's deserted apart from the gulls and no one's on the carousel. We drove to London the other weekend and the traffic on the other side was queuing for miles to get into our little city.

    Do you miss anything about city life though?

  8. Oh yes. It would take all night to list the foods that I miss. Plus being able to pop out to a grown-up wine or cocktail bar with some atmosphere. My beautiful friends. My sisters and brother and all their various offspring. And, sometimes, even the noise. But not often.

    Can honestly say that I miss a lot less than I thought I would and even the things I do miss I miss less often than I thought I would. We have the same experience as you on weekends - everyone from the city is escaping down here. We just escape from here often enough that it's all good.


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