Country mice and city rats.
By Sue Langenberg

Having lived here and there in varying sizes of locales, I always find myself rather detached when it comes to a population box. A jaded “been there, done that,” I guess. I feel fortunate to have experienced different sized boxes, however, because then I can legally observe the country mice and city rats.
Some of us dwell on this earth as our own private oxymoron. The stork delivered me to a one-horse town where they roll up the sidewalks every night. I think that I probably had itchy feet in the nursery and wondered when I could escape the country mice to the city to stand around the opera with my nose in the air and be a snob. Likewise, my parents were later glad that I could soothe my wandering soul elsewhere.
On the other hand, one can be born in a major city and feel a mistaken identity forever. I firmly believe that the stork brought my ex-husband to the wrong location. He was born and bred to become the ultimate city rat. He dwelled within the subway system, bus schedules and canyons of buildings. There were fountains, cultural events and festivals at his disposal, even employment in his younger days.
But there is one minor detail: he hates people. He is convinced as a personal affront that all human beings on this earth are in front of him in traffic. Or the theatre should have one seat; his. He once observed from a flight somewhere that the lights on the ground never stopped, giving new meaning to the title, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.” I happened to be with him at a parking complex when the ticket machine mal-functioned and charged him twice. He blamed the entire human race in a rant from Grant Park clear up Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. I guess those other rude city rats don’t realize that he is supposed to live there by himself.
The next generation was doomed. My daughter grew up in ballet class, then married a passionate hog farmer. She claims that she’s not confused. It’s the perfect place for my ex-husband to sit outside and look at …nothing. Corn stalks, clouds, space. My son, on the other hand, is a certified city rat who could never exist far from the gentle click-clicking sound of the commuter train nearby. Endless space practically gives him a panic attack. He claims that Lake Michigan keeps him living close by, then fails to mention that it has been years since he actually moseyed along the beach. He just needs to know that it is there.
Then having “been there, done that,” I got lost in a town of population 500, including cows. A friend and I looked for a certain cemetery after I had read some book and was inspired to find the main character. No one told me that I should drive past the cows only a half mile out find it. Likewise, in a town of only two schools, I couldn’t find the little league event. I guess I was looking for cows.
Yet I used to board the express train in Chicago, read the paper and know by the sound of the squeaks exactly what stop to get off in the loop. There are no cows to look for in the subway.
I recently had occasion to visit with one of my city rat friends of long ago. When I suggested that she come out for a visit, she clutched her chest and worried about her blood pressure at the sight of trucks and fields and being nowhere. When she walked away, I could tell that she was relieved to dwell in canyons of steel and glass while I returned to my tomato garden and fresh air.