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Kittiwake Economic Development Corporation

The eKubator Project

Got Yer Spot?
May 27, 2002
{Author: Reg Wright}



I'm a rural guy. Sometimes I think my hometown of Gander, which just manages a strained chin-up to a five-figure population, is too big for me. Size counts. And unlike in the case of trucks or paycheques or steaks, smaller is better.

Don't get me wrong - I don't begrudge those urban dwellers who love paying $25 to go to the movie or are into feng shui or crack or power-lunching or whatever it is they do, but there are some aspects of urban living that get me shooting quills.

First off, I deal poorly with traffic. And traffic brings out the worst in people. Especially in St. John's. Even long-time residents of St. John's acknowledge the local drivers make Montreal motorists look like Mary Poppins on sedatives. They think a shoulder check is a brief sideways glance to ensure dandruff has not accumulated on their Hugo Boss sportcoat. I find myself nodding in affirmation when I read one of those solemn, obvious letters that appears on this page warning of the rabid wolverine in the SUV nearly flattening the Senior's Walking Club. Then there's that yuppie behind you with the surgically-implanted cell phone giving you the one-gun salute because you decided not to Indiana Jones through oncoming traffic on a left turn and are making him late for his tanning salon appointment. I'm certain the Paris-Dakar Rally is safer fare than Columbus Drive near suppertime, and I want no part of a commute so long it should include frequent flyer points and a stewardess.

And all of this might leave you with the impression that urban centers are a favourite nesting ground for bad people. This couldn't be further from the truth. The reality is that idiots are parceled out equally, usually at a rate of 5-9 per cent of the total population. So if you live in a town with 300 people, you can pretty well guarantee that a couple dozen of them are idiots. Of course, when you get into a city like Toronto, whose population towers near 2.5 million, that's a whole lot of idiots. And with breathing space at a premium, it seems like these idiots are everywhere. Most of the good people have thrown up their hands in surrender and just decided it best to stay home, leaving visitors to believe the entire populace is idiots, which, suffice to say, is poor for tourism.

Then there are the people who arrive to cities the best of kind, and then urban life begins its insidious infection. Before you know it, they're going into Hulk-like rages, tire-ironing people over parking spaces and suing everyone in sight.

I won't even dwell on the proliferation of crime in urban centers, but it's nice to know you can walk any street in your community without losing your wallet/vital organs/life. In my 28 years, I have had personal property totaling near $1,300 stolen. Six dollars of that loss is accounted for by the disappearance of my prize Rubik's Cube in Grade 4. The rest occurred on visits to urban centers, leaving me to speculate that, were it not for retinas, my very eyeballs might be plucked from my head.

There's no doubt you need a spot. A quiet spot, preferably seaside in a town with a three-figure population where you can watch the sun sink in a chereuse salute over the ocean through the glass of a biting margarita. A spot where you know everyone on your street by name, and like the bulk of them. A spot where reciprocal favours are the essence of the economy. A spot with tight-knit community fabric. A spot where the cost of living is better. A spot where you can go to movie or grocery store and everyone's not squawking on their cellphone. Newfoundland's full of such spots. The blessing of Newfoundland is that even our cities afford a small-town atmosphere with urban convenience, save for the demonic traffic.

If living in an ubercity is so good, why do so few people retire there? Why, during the Y2K scare (the most overhyped non-event since Tyson-Spinks) were people getting ready to flee cities? Makes you think about quality of life. Especially in the wake of September 11th, when stranded passengers came to Newfoundland in the midst of a swirl of terror and found a safe harbour. There is a general feeling, perpetuated in Hollywood, that rural communities are dull, stifling, backward places. I beg to differ.

In some places in Newfoundland, you can find seaside property for around $25,000. As the population continues to urbanize, the quality of life in cities will continue to erode. That seaside spot is precious. Hang onto it for all it's worth.
regwright@nfld.net