I remember how nice it was, after I moved from Chicago to Valparaiso, IN, that I could tell someone my name and he knew where I lived. It was a small town. We all knew where pretty much everybody lived. One time, just to see what would happen, I sent a letter to my step-father addressed simply,
Dr. Norm Robertson II
Valparaiso, IN 46383
The letter got delivered, right on time. (Here’s a grateful tip of my virtual hat to the US Postal Service employee who went above and beyond the call of duty to make that happen.)
In sixth grade, I had a paper route and wanted a checking account. Teaching me about banking seemed like a good idea to my mom so she and I walked down to the First National Bank of Valparaiso and, in a few short minutes, I was the proud bearer of my first checkbook. It even had my name, alone, on the checks. I learned how to deposit my pay and wrote checks at the bank when I needed some cash. By mid-December, I had accumulated enough money to buy my mom the electric can opener that I had been eying at Sears. The clerk was a little dubious when confronted with a sixth-grader with a checkbook but, when I told her who my parents were, the store took my check and I walked out a much more grown up boy than I had walked in.
It’s nice to be known.
These days, it is easy to get paranoid about protecting our privacy. I am not sure that we ever had much privacy so I wonder where this fear originated. How did we get from that comfy feeling of being a well-known part of a community to worrying that our neighbors might find out too much about us? Fretting about privacy does not make us less well known; it just raises our anxiety levels.
I was idling away some time the other evening, looking up race results for some of the people that I have met since I began running in July. The Google searches turned up not only race results but ages and home addresses and photo albums. The photos even told me which high schools had been attended (a uniquely St. Louis concern, it seems). I felt like I was back in small town Indiana. Instead of being just running partners, these people became more human, more friend-ly.
I savor that small town feeling again, even if I would have to drive a car to their houses instead of ride my bike.