Tag: post office

Small Towns – Don’t Ask Google

I remember the days of asking people for directions and recommendations.  The days before Google and Facebook. I’m not even sure when my phone became the go-to resource for everything.

Even at the dinner table, I’ll consult my phone if the information is relevant in the moment.


“What time does the hardware store close?”

I finish chewing and pull out my phone.  “Eight o’clock.  Enough time to wash the dishes before we go there.”

It’s not rude if it enhances the conversation. Right?

I used to ask for directions and carefully write down all of the details. “Turn left at the place that used to be the Dairy Queen. Go past the thrid tree to the house with the blue door.”

I’m moving to a small town and my Googling knowledge fails me in important ways. I must actually speak to people and look at my surroundings.

For the most part, Google maps will take me to the correct location.  But I don’t always recognize it when I get there. I drove past my new post office several times.

Google said, “You have arrived.”  I didn’t see a post office.  Then I stopped and squinted at the shadows of letters that used to be above the door.

Once inside, the post office looked normal. But, a direction like, “Look for the brown adobe building next to the old loan place,” would have been helpful.

Google failed me when I needed a windshild chip repair.  I called the only auto glass place on the list.  “We don’t do that.  Call Matt. Here is his number.”

My go-to solutions fail me as well.

I called my insurance agent for a quote on my new home. “We don’t insure homes there.”

So I asked the real estate agent.  She gave three suggestions, all which had the word Farm in their name. Hmmm.

I called the national satellite internet company. “We can’t set you up with service right away.  Call back in a couple of weeks.”

So, I called my real estate agent.  She suggested two companies with Native American names.

Elements from the city have been dropped into the small town.  When inside the Walgreens, I could be in Philadelphia or Washington D.C.  The same tile floors.  The same sized aisles.  And, the same online and texting services.

Local businesses sit next to city franchises.  Many don’t choose to pay for website development or Facebook page management. People already call Mike for a windshield chip and ask Barb about hair color. No need to look it up.

Because of the limited internet presence, word-of-mouth rules.

I need to find a church, a doctor, a dentist, and most of all. . . a coffee shop.

My Starbucks app keeps flashing a picture of a coffee cup across my phone. I could drive an hour to get the advertised special.

Instead, I use my punch card at the local coffee shop. The one without a fancy app. Local shops are more fun anyway.

I guess I’ll have to start talking to people if I want information.

Good thing I like talking to people.

Noooo. Not the Dentist.

I only want to have my picture taken. Where’s the photographer?

Imagine being dressed in your best finery. You open the door to the photography studio and hear an evil dentist say, “Bwaaa haaa. Sit in my chair and have some gas.”

Worse yet, imagine it is 1884 in the new state of Colorado and the dentist has a four-foot-tall drill mechanism which is powered by a foot petal.

I was perusing the January 4, 1884 Leadville Daily Herald . . . because I write historical fiction and that’s how I spend my free time. I call it research.

I noticed advertisements for two businesses both located above the post office. A photography studio and a dentist office. Whose brilliant idea was that?

The ads weren’t next to each other, as I have placed them here, but they were in the same newspaper. So, they had to be very near each other. How big could the space Over the Postoffice be?

I imagine a lot of screaming and noise from the dentist’s office. Not a civilized affair like in modern times. The dentist’s ad offers gas for painless extracting, and artificial teeth are guaranteed to fit. Doesn’t say what kind of gas. This is a time when ads for children’s cough syrup explicitly state that morphine is not an ingredient. Because it could be the active ingredient.

Perhaps the gas calmed the patient enough to ignore the giant dental drill. It could keep everything quiet.

Even without a dentist next door, a photography session could be a frightening ordeal.

No one ever smiles in old-time photos. A museum guide told me that’s because it is hard to hold a smile during the long exposure time. The person could end up with a blurry mouth or face. People were told not to smile and to hold as still as possible. Some photographers even had wire stands to hold the subject’s head still.

And who knew what a camera pointed in your direction would actually do? That camera looks like a mini-canon. Maybe I’d be better off with the dentist and his gas.

And, how much noise and commotion carried to the post office below? It could be enough to keep patrons from visiting either establishment.

In fairness, I’ll note that by 1884, Kodak cameras were available, and photography had become more common. So, the dentist might be the more frightening of the two.

I researched the dentist and photographer in the advertisements further to look for other interesting tidbits.

In 1888, the photographer was in a legal dispute with Laura LeClair. The Leadville Evening Chronical says, “he had an agreement with Laura to take pictures of her girls ‘with’ and ‘without tights,’ whatever that may mean.” And, “Miss LeClair claims that the photographs were ‘improperly taken’ and were not meritorious.”

In modern times, Judge Judy would have heard this lawsuit.  Mrs. LeClair promised it would be “spicy.”

I wonder if the dentist office was still next door during this photography session.

All of this speculation gives me an idea for a novel. Plenty of potential for conflict.