Opinion: Help Queen Creek retain its small town feel – Make a friend from a stranger

Wendy Miller

Small town charm. Queen Creek residents tell me all the time that’s why they moved here. That’s what the majority of people polled in the town’s 2017 Citizen Survey said.

With the tremendous amount of growth taking place locally, people also say they are concerned the town could lose that warm and friendly feel and atmosphere for which they moved here.

So what can residents do to help Queen Creek retain its small town feel? One thing I recommend is to strike up a conversation with someone new.

That’s what led me to have one of the nicest visits to a mechanic I have ever experienced.

Back in December, the oil light came on on my dashboard. I called an auto repair shop — somewhere new, but with a good reputation for giving back to the community — to make an appointment and was pleased it was able to see me the following morning.

The setting for my experience — the patron waiting room — also earned high marks. It was clean, spacious, had big windows to let in lots of light and was stocked with lots of current magazines to read.

I turned over my car keys to the shop manager, selected a handful of entertainment-related publications and began what I expected to be a one- or two-hour wait.

Turns out I barely needed those magazines to help spend the time. A parade of friendly and outgoing vehicle-owners provided me with enough entertainment, good will and conversation to make the time pass quickly and enjoyably.

First was a woman who brought her car to the shop based on a friend’s recommendation.

“Charlene sent me. She says you work on her car and you’re the best,” the woman told the shop manager as she handed him her keys. She threw us waiting patrons a wave and a big smile as she left to catch a ride home.

Her positive spirit prompted me to address a gentleman who had brought in his truck for service. He appeared to be in his 70s in both age and attire, which seemed a throwback to that decade. Blue jeans, a blue jeans jacket, long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail.

We smiled in response to the woman’s smile. What began as a “What did you bring in your car for?” evolved into conversation about the motorcycles the man rode.

I learned he favored Harley-Davidsons, on which he and his wife of 40 years traveled cross-country on a regular basis. He recounted a journey to Arizona’s high country, up to visit the “crick.”

I loved that he used the word “crick” for “creek.” Would there ever be a Queen Crick? I wondered.

The work on his truck finished, he left with a small wave to me and to a woman who had dropped off her car for service while the man and I were talking.

She and I smiled a hello. She then focused on her smart phone screen, typing and probably texting.

She appeared to be in her 40s or early 50s, well-dressed and manicured. She seemed adept at using her smart phone, typing, then checking for a response. Typing, then checking.

I happened to glance in her direction when she lifted her head to take a break, and we shared a quick “Hi.”

I asked if she was using her phone to catch up on work. She said some of her digital conversations were with her husband, a pilot for a major airline who had been called in at the last minute to take on a shift.

She didn’t know if he would be home for Christmas, which was about a week away. But they were used to the disruptions in their lives, she said. She and her husband had come to expect the unexpected during their 20-year marriage.

“We’re used to it,” she said graciously.

She then shared about something else unexpected that was taking place in their lives. Her son and daughter-in-law, who lived out of state, were expecting their first child — the woman’s first grandchild —which was reason for celebration.

However, the daughter-in-law was having problems with her pregnancy. While we sat there in the auto repair shop waiting room, her son was waiting with his wife at the hospital.

That was why she kept a constant watch over her smart phone texts. She was hoping for a good word about her daughter-in-law’s and the baby’s health.

She smiled and then returned to her phone screen. I thought about the many stories we all have, but don’t always share with others.

Soon after, another woman stepped into the waiting room. Took over the room, might be a better way to describe her entrance as she had the commanding presence of someone who was obviously well-known at the auto shop and felt perfectly at home there and with the staff.

“Did my friend drop off her car yet?” she asked the shop manager.

It was Charlene, who had recommended the earlier customer.

The manager replied she had. They exchanged pleasantries, and Charlene asked about the status of the truck she had dropped off earlier. It would be ready in about a half-hour, the manager said.

Satisfied with the response, Charlene sat down near me. She looked my way and we smiled. She reminded me of me, about the same age and dressed casually, and we began talking.

She had been coming to the shop for years, she said. It was important to maintain her truck, she said, because she put so many miles on it during her hour-long or so one-way trip to work. Fortunately, she was accepting a job closer to home so would no longer have to endure the long drives.

We talked about our jobs, driving on Arizona’s highways, getting older, when we might consider retiring, and what we would do if we ever took that big step.

The next thing I knew my car was ready. I smiled a “good-bye” to my new waiting room friend, paid for the work and accepted the invoice from the manager.

“We cleaned your windshield. Couldn’t see out of it. Now you can,” he said as he handed me the paperwork.

My experience at the auto repair shop could have taken place in a big city, but I think it’s more reminiscent of small towns across our country.

Friendly people making contact, sharing details of their lives with a stranger. I doubt I will run into these people again, although you never know.

What I am certain of is that the warm and friendly feeling I experienced that day will stay with me for a while, and isn’t that what small town living is all about?

Editor’s note: Do you have a small town Queen Creek experience you’d like to share? E-mail your story to qcnews@newszap.com.

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