This town sure has changed my perspective.
On Monday, our very own Lynn Moncus came by the office to drop off her weekly column. We started talking about this region and how I was adjusting to Tucumcari thus far. She asked if I was enjoying my time here.
"I am," I replied. "It's a quaint little town we have here."
"Quaint," Moncus repeated with a good-natured, teasing chuckle. She then said something like "Oh, you've gone and done it now. You called us quaint."
I promise I meant "quaint" in the best possible way. In fact, a Sunday stop in Amarillo recently demonstrated to me the value of Tucumcari quaintness.
I made the mistake of granting the Walmart on Interstate 40 and Grand Street my patronage about 8 p.m. I know, I know. People like me are the reason this town is not exploding with commerce, but I bet you do your shopping in Amarillo or Clovis, too.
I usually shop in Tucumcari, honest. Please don't glare at me that way.
In any case, I have never felt so claustrophobic in my life. Before I moved here some four months ago, I would spend at least an hour every week shopping at one of Lubbock's giant blue meccas of $6 coffee machines and ready-made, homogenized American culture. It was just another innocuous weekly ritual, and while Lubbock's Walmarts are at least as crowded as Amarillo's, I was desensitized to the crowd, the hustle and the bustle.
Not so in Amarillo on Sunday. The place was like an ant farm, with people shopping in every last aisle, crawling all over one another and exuding a sense of ultimate urgency. Nobody was browsing. Everybody was on the warpath to make their purchases and get the heck out of there.
There was no slowing down. I still have terrible grill marks on my back from getting run down by a shopping cart pushed by a middle-aged mother of three who desperately needed that last box of Shake 'N Bake.
I had stopped in between aisles to check out a sale. Never stop in between aisles to check out a sale.
While I shopped, a security car with an orange siren whizzed around the parking lot to maintain some order among the consumerist chaos. Parking lot security cameras monitored the vicinity like it was a London town square.
Also, while swimming in this sea of shoppers, I couldn't help but imagine how many airborne viruses could be filling my lungs or how many strangers had handled the mangoes I was evaluating for bruises. It was probably psychosomatic, but I did feel a little achy and queezy during the drive home, and was later victim to a nasty headache.
Naturally, upon arriving in the Gateway to the West, I realized I forgot to pick up a toothbrush, so I stopped at Circle K to buy one there. When I got out of my car, I turned around to face the Boulevard.
I looked to my right. I looked to my left. There was one eastbound car on the road and nothing else making noise but the chilly November wind.
Quaint indeed, Tucumcari, and you won't hear a cross word from me about it, either.
Russell Anglin is the senior reporter for the Quay County Sun. Contact him at: email@example.com