Congested Area Ahead

congestedMost of my life I’ve lived in big cities. Quite a contrast when you consider my roots are in some of the smallest towns in America; one I recently had the opportunity to revisit.

As we left the resort area along the winding two lane road we passed a temporary road sign that read, “Congested Area Ahead”. I sort of chuckled at that point knowing that what I considered “congested” was not likely to be what we encountered at all. In fact we probably didn’t pass a hundred people on the road during our whole trip that day.

As we arrived in the small town my grandparents once lived in the sign read, “Crossville 500”. My wife asked, “Is that how many people live here?” The answer of course is yes, and no. I would venture to say that since that sign was posted, about half the people (or more) have left for greener pastures.

The town is called Crossville because it resides, quite literally, at the intersection of State Route 1 and 2. It is a very VERY small town.

We had gone to just poke around and afford my wife the opportunity to experience the culture I came from. It was a rather brief tour, one blinking light and if you blink, you’ll miss it. There is quite literally nothing there. We stopped long enough for her to take her photo next to the street sign where my grandparents once lived which bears the family name.

Before heading out of town we needed to get some gas. There’s only one stop in town to do that which is also the local convenience store. The closest Wal-Mart is twelve miles away; which isn’t so far in contrast. There is a small supermarket in town, but you won’t find much more than staples and very limited brands.

We pulled up to the gas pump (one of two) and there was no place to swipe your credit card. Just a regular old gas pump with three grades to choose from; just lift the handle and start pumping. My wife was quite impressed by this event.

“You don’t have to take the money in first? Isn’t anyone watching?” I handed her twenty dollars and a dime since I went a little bit over the twenty mark. She was again amazed when she walked the money in and nobody was anticipating her arrival. She had to call them out and tell them we got gas, handed them the money and walked out simply shocked they were so casual.

As we drove down to the ferry at the Ohio River, headed back to our resort in Kentucky, crossing the vast farmlands of Illinois, I commented that the traffic was exceptionally light. We hadn’t passed a car in five miles or more and there was only one ahead of us, maybe a mile or more down the road. Yeah, we could see that far ahead pretty easy.

What comes to mind over all is a conversation I had with a New York, NY, friend of mine who was working with me in Washington, D.C., some many years ago. He was remarking how, at the time, Southeast D.C. had become the murder capital of the nation. He didn’t understand why people would kill each other so easily at such an alarming rate.

In D.C., like most modern cities, people live on top of each other and honestly are not very kind or thoughtful to one another. Big cities seem to be brutal places.

When my New York friend made his comment I fired back with a simple realistic statement. I am reminded of that comment all these years later as I contemplate the contrast between our home in Orlando and our visit to Crossville. The reality seems to be coming home with more sincerity than it did when I first said it.

Put 2.4 million people onto a small piece of real estate, take away their jobs, their education and feed them on government assistance and it doesn’t matter what race or nationality they are; they will eventually start killing each other like rats in a cage.

More Americans now live in big cities than in rural areas. Logically, crime rates and murder statistics are higher in more populated areas. It’s all about the numbers. I’m sure a detailed study of these things might reveal some interesting revelations. But I don’t need a study to help me see that people are far different creatures by nature when they have more space to roam.

We are fortunate in America to have a lot of wide open spaces. It’s a shame we don’t put them to better use. We can live with more passion and compassion and stop the killing by avoiding the congested areas.

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