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Giving directions in country is different than in city

Life Is Simple: Don’t tell country folks “left or right,” say “north or south.”

Recently, I had a new neighbor ask me, “How long do I have to live out here before people quit calling me ‘the city guy’?”

“That depends on several things,” I replied, “but could you give me detailed directions from where we are to your house?”

“Well, from where we are, you take a right, and …” I stopped him right there.

Town folk vs. country folk

I explained to him that those of us who were raised in the country tend to give directions in terms of north, south, east and west, as opposed to left and right. Just a minor thing, but one of many that differentiates town folk from country folk.

My wife was raised in town and had never lived in the country until our marriage 37 years ago. It took me a few years to engrain the north-south philosophy, but I’m so proud that she can now give and follow perfect directional instructions. I even get a kick out of her providing directions to repairmen or delivery people who are attempting to get to our place. She’ll start off the conversation with, “Were you raised in the country or in town?”

They seem taken aback by her question, but after they answer, Judy will give directional instructions, if they admit to being from the country, and left-right directions to those (most) who confess to having originated in an urban environment. I’m sure they think she’s crazy, but both of us know that’s what it takes for them find our home.

I have a friend who is also involved in a mixed marriage (country boy and city girl). He hasn’t been married nearly as long as I have, but he explained how long it took him to convince his wife that directions based on north, south, east and west are far superior to left and right when you live out in the sticks.

I won’t use his name as I relay the story he told me last week about the time when they first moved to this rural farming community. He informed me about the day after they got moved into their home, here in the country. They weren’t from anywhere around here when they first moved, and his wife wanted to go to the grocery store, to stock the refrigerator and cabinets of their new home. Inquiring about the nearest grocery, my friend told her the closest one was in a small town about 12 miles from where they lived. He also told her that one would have to take about five different roads to get there.

“OK, give me directions,” she ordered.

Carefully, my friend gave her detailed directions of which roads to take and where to turn on each one. His new wife copied them down on the back of a junk mail envelope and headed off to the small-town grocery. This was a few years before cellphones, so my friend was concerned when his wife hadn’t made it back in two hours. After three hours, she finally pulled in the driveway and had an exasperated attitude as he helped her unload the groceries.

“Weren’t my directions understandable?” he asked.

“Yes,” she sighed. “I got there just fine, but you didn’t give me directions to get back.”

Crownover lives in Missouri.

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