I split my time between two worlds. One I live in and one I travel to, for fun and errands. They are only about 20 miles away from each other, but feel worlds apart. Having spent most of my adult single life in Oakland’s gritty, urban, and sometimes dangerous city – the edginess always feels exciting to me, coming from rural Kentucky. We look forward to going to the East Bay twice or more a month, for the hair salon, for bookstores and birthday cards, and for shopping or hanging out.
Four years ago, we left Oakland for Marin, a county known for its abundance of uninhabited space, deer and hiking. B-O-R-I-N-G
I recently realized there are even more subtle differences than I’d known before. Here in Marin, retail store bathrooms aren’t “for customers only”. Hell, they’re not even locked. And even better, I don’t have to buy something to use them. And they’re clean! Cashiers will wait for you to run to the car to get some change, or it’s possible that somebody behind you will donate some change, not because they are philanthropic,but because they want to get through the line too. It’s a win-win!
Another subtle difference arose when I arranged to buy a used hedge trimmer off Craigslist. The seller, Anne, lives in Mill Valley (if you don’t know it, it’s a quaint village on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s so quaint I can’t afford to live there. I’ve also heard it’s so quaint, they don’t want me to live there.) I arranged to pick up the trimmer after going to Home Depot, around 11:30 or so, but that took longer than I thought, and I ended up at her house a little after 12.
No one answered the door.
And yet the hedge trimmer was sitting on the tippy-top arguable edge of the driveway between private property and well-known ‘free’ territory. My faith in humankind had been kindled again! If Anne didn’t want to wait for us, had she decided twenty-five dollars was just too much effort to quibble for? Had she abandoned it, and now it was free?
The Oakland part of me wanted to casually walk over, pick it up and leave, all the while justifying to myself that I’m only following the ‘one person’s trash is another person’s treasure’ philosophy, in picking up curb-side, discarded junk.
The Marin part of me (and the role model part, since my kids were with me) thought about how happily surprised the seller would be to come back home and find that she had been paid, even if she wasn’t around to receive it. I could be proof that honor still exists in America!
As I was debating honesty or opportunity, I checked my voicemail. Anne had gone out to lunch and asked me to put the money in the mailbox. And I did. Because, in the end, I do have honor. Because I remember my disappointment at things ‘walking off’ in the past. Because at least some level of our trust in each other is still intact in Marin. Because I miss those days of trusting each other and hope that all of us try to bring them back. One transaction at a time.