New Yorker fitting in nicely
April 29, 2005
Contrary to popular belief — or one I just made up — culture shock is not some obvious, earth-shattering thing.
With almost a month in the small town of Clovis, after nearly two decades in Brooklyn and New York, N.Y., I was erroneously waiting for that bolt of lightening from the sky, or candy-coated dreams of taxi cabs, to quake my new world.
I asked others when this culture shock would hit, complete with a penchant to tear my eyes out with desire for Madison Avenue.
This simply is not the case.
Like a lurking disease, culture shock is a subtle, underlying phenomenon. Its main symptom is the feeling you are in a trance, suspended from reality. You go about your day, asking yourself if you miss anything about the Big Apple, while bumping into cacti and not comprehending reality.
I still don’t understand I live in Clovis.
My days have been a bumble of surrealism. What is mundane to the native Southwesterner, to the New Yorker is stupefying, silly, or strange — I was clueless when it came to pumping gas.
The biggest shock thus far has definitely been the lawn mower.
In addition to the mechanical aspect of it all, having a yard to mow is a trip within itself. At least I broke out of my trance long enough to realize the blade should not make that crunchy noise (blame it on a sprinkler spike) and the engine should not puff plumes of smoke.
Another mechanical shock is the car.
Although I obtained a driver’s license at the age of 16, I had
not driven in NYC — unless you count the go-carts at Coney Island.
My first story assignment took me an hour’s ride away to Milnesand, a town so small they do not even list the population and it’s not even on most maps. Round trip was two hours, a total of 128 miles — less than the amount of subway time from Brighton Beach to Astoria; barely longer than a trek from Wall Street to the Bronx.
Adding to the surreal sense of displacement is the fact that none of my stuff came for ages. It has been two weeks of me and my yoga mat — where I ate, read and rested after mowing the lawn. I broke down and bought a shower curtain, although a brand new leopard print awaited in the boxes from the movers — after I nearly flooded the Texas Panhandle during my first shower without one.
And it’s hard to get used to the people. Two new friends have already helped me with the mower. A third offered to help me unpack. The editor at my new job picked me up from the Lubbock airport when I arrived and drove me 93 miles to Clovis without blinking an eye.
The folks here are friendly, helpful, sincere — that would shock the heck out of any displaced New Yorker.
Ryn Gargulinski is an artist, poet and writer who recently moved to Clovis from New York City. She can be contacted at: