I think I might now know what Republican politicians are talking about when they talk about small town values. I made this revelation in *Charles Town, West Virginia. Now, the reason I was in Charles Town, West Virginia was because of my lifetime goal of getting my picture with all 5o state signs and Charles Town just happened to be the closest West Virginian city to my hotel in Virginia. Also, I had 5 hours to spare thanks to M being rushed away for bridesmaid pre-wedding duties. What better way to spend 5 hours than searching for a state sign?
*Charles Town, WV is a city of "historic interest, natural beauty, and wide range of human endeavor" that was named after George Washington's less accomplished brother Charles. Also, it is the place where abolitionist John Brown eventually was hung in 1859.
Anyway, I was able to get the state sign (see below):
Then for no particular reason I kept going 7 miles to Charles Town despite the fact that I had accomplished my goal of getting the state sign. If I had to guess a reason I might say that I wanted to see the city that was on the signs I had been following for the past 15 miles. Maybe it was just dumb luck.
Anyway, I arrived in Charles Town for Heritage Day Celebration. This meant that the downtown streets were blocked off and street vendors had set up shop selling things from oil candles to steaks. In my rush to get to West Virginia (and to buy Twins playoff tickets) I had not had any breakfast, so I decided to stop by the local coffee shop and pick up a sandwich. The young (approx. a high school junior) waitress named Debbie took my order and I went to a nearby seat to wait for my egg sandwich.
This is where things start getting weird.
Debbie came over to with a strange smile on her face and asked me what I was doing the rest of the day. Now being a guy that doesn't normally (i.e. ever) get hit on by girls I thought that this might be the real deal. In my head I thought about how I was going to have to crush this poor girl's heart by saying that 1) I have a girlfriend and 2) I am not a high schooler.
She then pulled out two $20 bills and proceeded to ask me if I would go to the grocery story to buy milk. Apparently the coffee shop had run out of milk and even though I was a "perfect stranger" she thought I looked like a *trustworthy guy. I said yes that I would do her that favor, but (cliched line coming up) that "I wasn't from around here." She was not dissuaded by this and gave me (inaccurate) directions to a grocery store with the $4o and the reminder that she wanted 3 gallons of 2% milk and 3 gallons of skim milk.
*I used to think people thought I looked like "someone they know" at a better than average rate. Sometimes I would even get comparison with public figures like Prince William. That has now been replaced by being someone who looks "trustworthy" or "not a creep" to complete strangers. I guess that is a good change.
Now, am I crazy to think this is a weird request. Does this happen in other areas of the country? Is this what small town values mean? You can ask perfect strangers to run an errand for you, give them money, and expect them to come back.
Of course I like to think I am not an unethical jerk, so I found a gas station and bought 4 gallons of milk. My thought was that 4 gallons was about the max I could carry (not because of the weight, but because of how cumbersome it is to carry milk), and it also happened to be all the milk the gas station had. I then drove back to downtown Charles Town and proceeded to walk through the Heritage Festival with 2 gallons of milk in both hand. I dropped off the milk at the coffee shop with my new friend Debbie, gave her back $20, and then went back to the car with a "thanks for doing that here is a free hot tea w/honey" that she made for me in a to-go cup.
Maybe when Republicans are talking about true small town values (and not just using small town values as code for something else) they are talking about people like those you would find in Charles Town, WV? Now, it probably isn't smart to give $40 to a stranger and hope he comes back with what you need, but Debbie did and it worked out well for her (she got the milk) and for me (I got a strange story and also the previously mentioned state sign).