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In big cities, residents live in anonymity and privacy. Should they pass someone on the street, they can feel safe in the knowledge that they are complete strangers. There you can play GTKY with someone for hours and find them completely new and exciting. You can share a busride and a coffee and maybe even a bed and then never see each other again, if that's your fancy.

In small towns, residents live in familiarity and close community. Should they pass someone on the street, they can feel safe, but also somewhat haunted, knowing that they’re known. In small towns, history ties you with the people around you. For better or worse, ‘til real estate deal do you part. I live in St. Louis, neither a big city nor a small town. It's sort of a smallcity/bigtown and, as such, we've had to improvise...

Unfortunately the improvisation went all wrong.

Rather than meeting new people, hanging on their every word, smelling new scents and hearing new laughter... Rather than surrounding ourselves with people we see all the time, sharing old times and secrets... we've decided to solve the problem by dividing the city and county into districts, by high school. Every high school comes complete with a supposed history and collective personality; whatever high school you attended predetermines how people will identify you for the rest of your life. Yes, that's right; THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

When you meet a stranger in St. Louis, you may begin the conversation with, "hello" or "what's your name?" but invariably, the question not far behind is "Where'd you go to high school?" Your answer will permanently shadow your relationship with this individual. You cannot escape the question.

"So... where'd you go to high school?" is often asked as the inquirer grins slightly and tilts his/her head to the side. Oh, sure--it seems innocent enough. But rest assured, this question could be deadly. When I, for example, give the name of my small-but-average school district, the response is generally a polite "oh" followed by a few side glances and hesitating looks. The little hamster turns in his wheel and then! The worst. A lightbulb goes on and the person jumps to say, "OH! Do you know (so-and-so)?!?" And, we're off.

Suddenly I know fifteen people the other person knows, and oh-can-you-believe-we-were-at-the-same-party-that-time-four-years-ago, and eeeeeek--that must mean you know.... I no longer exist as an individual. I was Tammy's friend's cousin's brother's dog's uncle's sister-in-law's lab partner in 9th grade biology. So much for meeting new people.

Yes, it's a small world here. Should you ever visit, share a joke with a stranger. We’ll laugh and swear you look familiar until you do.

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