It’s good to see that the bus drivers were chosen mainly for their friendly and helpful dispositions. Such people seem to blossom in Chapel Hill.
It’s not just that this is a small town where everybody knows you. Even on my first day in Chapel Hill I was greeted by many smiling faces and hellos as I walked down Franklin Street. Believe me, after Buffalo, NY, and Washington, D.C., it was an overwhelming feeling that made me say, “Yes, I think I’ll stay here,” as I know many other travelers have done.
The folks who work at N.C. Cafeteria, lovingly watching you fill up your tray like doting parents; the butchers at Fowlers, especially the one who always says, “Well, we’re out of dog bones, but we did kill a cow yesterday”; the lady at Sutton’s snackbar who has devoted so many years to serving Cokes and coffees, a mother to students and businessmen; the man at the laundromat who polishes the machines after every use — they’re some of the old faithfuls who make Chapel Hill the mellow place it is. A place where retailers spend a lot of time at the doors of their shops, just watching the traffic; where the cops eat ice cream cones and folks tell you, “Y’all come back now”; and where when you’re driving in town or in the country people call from their porches or look up from their gardening to wave.
And there’s all the other people. Some who came to college here and stayed. Many travelers who just never left. Some starting to farm the land again, raising babies and goats and corn and squash. Some starting businesses that reflect the changing spirit of America. And many just hanging out, digging the vibes, the easy friendliness of Franklin Street.
For those who have grown bored with the Chapel Hill scene, who no longer smile at passing strangers, let them walk the streets of any big city and feel the isolation and loneliness of its inhabitants.
A smile, a look of recognition — it’s such a small thing, an acknowledgment of another’s existence, a token of acceptance, but so important when you realize that loving your neighbor begins with recognizing your neighbor as yourself.