Will Call: An increasingly familiar face around town
Contrary to popular depictions of small towns, I don’t actually know everyone in Carbondale.
As a native, I usually recognize about one in 10 folks well enough to greet them, which is still enough to impress most out-of-towners. Well, impress may not be the right word. While some folks I’ve had the chance to show around have expressed a desire for just that sort of community, others found it off-putting or downright disturbing.
I never considered that some people would prefer a sea of strangers to people they know until I got to college and met several of them. There’s a freedom to anonymity that many, particularly introverts, savor. It allows you to act and express yourself without fear of tainting a future interaction. It prevents your parents from finding out about every stupid or dangerous thing you’ve ever done. It means you can go to the grocery store without stopping in every aisle to catch up.
Painfully shy as I was, I don’t think my childhood would have benefited from that. Being part of a community where my parents and brother were fairly prominent figures forced me to learn social skills and gave me a sense of support. It has taken me years to build up a pool of acquaintances of my own to rival those indirect connections. I still get recognized that way, either by name or by strong resemblance to my father, on a roughly weekly basis. I’m used to it.
I’m not as accustomed to being recognized through my role at the newspaper, but it’s becoming more common. I don’t mean meeting people in the course of my job and then seeing them later. That’s been a perk of newspaper work since I first began freelancing. It gives my social sphere a decent boost, though not as much as say, a trustee. I consistently trail in unscientific counts of First Friday greetings with fellow native Alexander Hobbs. I didn’t even bother counting the last time I chose the Smithy as a venue for an interview with Stacey Bernot.
No, the newer trend comes from that photo at the top of the page. I get the sense that folks don’t generally read bylines, and the little online thumbnails aren’t much of a face to go with them. Columns, though, put you out there for all to see. Instead of just getting feedback from friends and family, I’ve recently been approached by total strangers about my writing. So far, it’s been a generally positive experience.
In fact, it’s actually quite nice to have a chance to discuss what I write. It’s a strange experience to open yourself to the public every week. Where opinions are concerned, I always prefer a dialogue to a monologue. With the more personal pieces, there’s the concern that no one cares. Talking to people reinforces what I’m doing right and gives me a chance to correct my missteps (though the woman who instructed me to “write better articles” could have been a tad more specific).
Anyway, with thousands of newspapers circulated every day and more and more online readers, I have to remember that plenty of people I haven’t met and probably never will meet are reading what I write. If you see me on the street, feel free to correct that. As long as it’s in a nice way.
Will Grandbois harbors Pat Noel’s unfulfillable dream that everyone in the community will get a moment to shine in the paper sooner or later. He can be reached at 384-9105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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