I don’t remember the exact designation according to the AP Style Manual that I used to swear by, back when I did this for a living and my response to editors who wanted to change something was to throw a fit and stomp around, instead of saying, “Sure, sounds good to me.”
So, I don’t really know exactly how long someone has to live in a place before he’s considered a native. I’m guessing something like all your life, particularly including the portion of which you spent being born. If that’s the case, I’m out of luck.
However, the Lovely Mrs. Smith and I were part of the first great wave of migration that hit roughly 20-plus years ago. It’s long enough that we now get to play the “what used to be there” game every time we pass a donut shop that once was a chicken place in the parking lot of what used to be a grocery store. Endless family fun. Well, for us, anyway.
With that in mind, and since a certain fluidity around labels is reason for celebration these days, I feel comfortable saying I am as close to a native of Northwest Arkansas as you’re going to get, considering that at this point in time, it’s likely a lot more of the area’s population came here than were born here.
But let’s not quibble. Suffice it to say, I’ve been here a while. It’s a lovely place, lots to see and do and a great location in which to raise a family. Or to have raised one. And I would heartily recommend coming here and lingering a while.
In fact, I know that if you happen to be driving near my house, you’ll definitely be lingering a while. At the stop lights. Where you, many of your friends and people you don’t even know will be given ample time to appreciate your surroundings, consider many important questions in your life, sing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” read “War And Peace” in the original Russian after learning Russian and generally wonder why no one is moving in any direction.
Then you’ll drive a few blocks and do it all again.
Yes, yes, yes, I know. This is all anecdotal. I have no evidence to support my claim. It’s hard to manage a good traffic flow in a growing area. Better safe than sorry. I’m a grouchy old guy yelling at clouds. If I’m so smart, why haven’t I developed a fool-proof plan for getting folks from Point A to Point My Favorite Pizza Place and back before the cheese gets cold?
But if you’re baby-faced when you stop at a light and need to shave by the time it changes, well, something might be wrong.
Of course, there are other area driving challenges that aren’t quite so languid. Take roundabouts, the Tibetan Prayer Wheel of traffic control.
Roundabouts are those traffic circle deals you enter with high hopes of getting quickly to your destination and exit after about 72 circuits just happy to be alive. They’re sort of like Bitcoin. I’m sure there are people who really understand them and those who do swear by them, but the rest of us are just kind of going “hmmmm… .”
I did notice the ones near me come with handy signs detailing exactly what you’re supposed to do and when you’re supposed to do it. The problem is when you’re supposed to be doing it is, usually, about 15 seconds ago. Which means I tend to find myself following about half of the NASCAR dictate to “turn left and get back first.” I mean, I’ve got the initial part of that down.
Now I realize it’s not really fair to complain about roads. Every city, town, hamlet and burg in the country is probably behind on infrastructure, it’s difficult to sell folks on building a road to where people are going to be when you don’t have enough roads to where they already are and highway money doesn’t grow on trees.
And if money did grow on trees, we’d likely cut the trees down to build roads that are four lanes and should be five, go from four to two without a good reason and are promptly shut down to allow someone to build an apartment complex.
But I’m a reasonable man. If someone has insights into how this all works, I’m more than willing to listen. And I’m easy to find. Just look for a stop light, where I’ll be waiting and waiting and waiting …