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Rochester Is A Big Small Town

I like these people … but I’m probably partial.

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ROCHESTER, New York- I was working in the dining area of Wegmans and this fat guy in a button up shirt walked by.

“You going to Green Bay?” He asked.

“No, I’m taking a week off,” I replied with a laugh. “I was in Minneapolis last week.”

“I know,” he replied. “I saw you.”

I was standing in a long line at Balsam Bagels, just standing there waiting when all of a sudden I hear a booming voice behind me:

I quickly turned around. It was my cousin.

For some reason out of all the bagel shops in the city she was in the one that’s right next to my apartment at the same time I was. It wasn’t even near where she lived.

Rochester is a big small town. People know each other. Most of the shops are locally owned and have names like Frank’s Barbershop and Captain Tony’s Pizza. The people working the registers at the hardware store know their customers by name. When I walk by tk Barbershop the barbers look up from their work and wave. Petra and I go for walks and just end up talking to old dudes. It’s like something out of Sesame Street — it’s how you imagine cities to be before you actually start living in them and realize that nobody knows / likes / wants to get to know each other. That’s normal. Rochester is not normal: I go out to a bar with the intention of sitting down with a beer to type up some notes or write a blog post on my phone and I end up talking to everybody, laughing, joking, and not leaving until early morning. That’s Rochester.

I have to wonder if Rochester is really exceptionally friendly or if I just know how to communicate with people here because this is where I grew up — these are my people. I don’t know. I think it’s not just me.

I’m not used to this. I’m not used to walking down the street and seeing people that I know. I’m not used to have any type of social identity really. I’m usually just this ephemeral apparition that manifests itself momentarily to ask a bunch of dumb questions just to dissolve back into nothingness again.


Filed under: Culture and Society, New York

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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  • Rob October 13, 2018, 4:18 am

    I think it’s good running into something different.

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    • Wade Shepard October 13, 2018, 5:28 pm

      It really is. It’s also the same old show … only easier because I actually get to speak my native language!

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