City vs. rural attitudes

Six horses escaped from someone’s corral near my friend’s home in rural Utah when we were visiting there Sunday. They ended up near his house, so he called the sheriff’s office and they arrived quickly.

I lived in Los Angeles for thirty years and was struck by the difference in how the sheriffs responded. They were friendly, relaxed, and it was clear that, unlike in too many big cities, that the civilian was not automatically considered to be the enemy. What a difference.

My friend DJ (also an LA escapee) said, yeah, out here the sheriff assumes you are friendly until proven otherwise, an attitude which is the opposite of L.A.P.D. Moreover, I could have walked over to them holding a (completely legal) handgun and they wouldn’t have cared. Do that in L.A. and you’re probably dead.

In smaller towns and rural areas, personal relationships are perhaps more primary, because you deal with the same people all the time. Maybe this helps create more civility and friendliness. Or perhaps it’s a function of population density. Jam too many people into the same space and they start getting suspicious of each other.

One of the real divides in this country is rural vs. city. Neither side really understands the other.


  1. In my home community, I will regularly allow a person with only one item to go ahead of me in the grocery store line, and slow down to allow someone to merge onto the freeway. In Los Angeles, you can’t afford to do that or you’ll never get where you need to go.

    Yes, it’s a function of population density. There are just too many people to know in the city, too many to be nice to. And the same thing that allows the economics of scale to operate, favoring large corporations over small businesses, also creates impersonal and uncaring relationships.

    My wife lived in the same condo in Culver City for 5 years and never knew all of her neighbors, much less all 400+ families in the complex. OTOH, where I live now, we only have two neighbors. One of them appears to sell drugs, but he doesn’t bother us and we don’t bother him. And when we do interact, we try to be good to each other because we’re neighbors. If something goes wrong, you want your neighbor looking out for you.

  2. In L.A., drivers on the freeways expect that no one will allow someone else to merge thus doing so can be dangerous. Ditto for not running the light when it turns yellow.

    Driving on the interstate near you, with posted speed limits of 75 mph, cars voluntarily allow other to pass them or merge in.

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