To mix up the work from home routine in quarantine, I brought my operations (aka my laptop and a bluetooth mouse) to a coffee shop in small town Fremont, Michigan. One of my dear friends and her family currently live there, and over the years have told me entertaining stories of small-town life. It turns out they were not exaggerating at all.
I settled into my booth, socially distanced from all nearby tables, but thankfully still in earshot. Around 10:30 a.m., the morning “crowd” rolled up. There was one small group of older men and one of older women, both spaced out across the shop’s two sprawling round tables. The men greeted one group member by erupting “Herman the German!” when he walked in the door, and I got the feeling they greet him this same way every single day.
After exchanging a few pleasantries, they moved into the most tried and true small talk topic out there: the weather. However, they weren’t even talking about their weather—they were commenting on the rain in Grand Rapids…an hour away. I guess quarantine has truly exhausted everyone’s conversation material.
However, Fremont is not only home of the original Gerber baby food (who knew?), but many families also rely on the local corn crop for their wellbeing. The weather for Fremont locals is a pressing and very real issue, small talk or not. Passing conversation often included how the rain would “make the corn happy.” Local pastors are asked to pray for rain because “the corn is drying and rolling up like a cigarette.” It’s a livelihood, and this year’s crop evidently has not reached its benchmark “knee high by fourth of July” goal. For farmers, this means trouble.
The tables covered other topics as well, among them recent trips to Bob Evans and to the Lumberjack Shack (a breakfast place in town, I found out later). But of course, the roundtable discussion also had to cover current events! While mulling over the lack of mask-wearing across the country and in leadership, one man said rather profoundly, “Well here’s the thing: Trump doesn’t have to go to Menards.” The table and I found this equally hilarious.
And of course, they ended their time with a jovial, “See you tomorrow!” Part of me wished I could stay and enjoy their morning coffee meeting the next day. The slower cadence of life in Fremont was a welcome change of pace, but I know my friend will keep me updated on the corn crop and all other happenings of Fremont.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.