Downtown Drogheda

You can live in a big city like Los Angeles your whole life and never run into someone you know on the street. Occasionally it happens; you’ll see a friend or co-worker and there’s always this sense of surprise, like “Funny seeing you here!” You might even tell someone else, “I ran into [fill in the blank] today at the store!” It’s unusual enough to make it newsworthy.

I’m finding that life in a small town like Drogheda means that you pretty much can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you know. You’re probably wondering how many people I could possibly know here, and the answer is that I am friends with about seven people and am acquainted with about eight more, so 15 all together. On my first day here, as my friend and I drove through Drogheda, I spotted four people I know walking around town. Four!

Half the people I know in town!

My friend Sinead, who grew up in the nearby village of Collon, knows everyone. Whether we’re at the grocery store or just driving down the road, people wave and say hello. Yesterday, we went for a walk around her neighborhood;  people in every single car that drove past waved to us (Sinead says it’s a “country thing” to wave at everyone). I find myself waving at people I don’t even know as I don’t want to seem rude.

It’s fascinating how even people in neighboring villages know each other, or at least know of each other. Yesterday morning we all awoke to news that a local man, only 25 years old, was beaten outside of a bar in Clogherhead (about seven miles from Drogheda) and was on life support at the hospital. My friend Trevor knows the victim personally. Over the last day or so, I’ve heard all kinds of theories on what happened, who might have been in the group that jumped the guy, etc. There have been rumors that he is brain dead, paralyzed and (fingers crossed) that he’s going to pull through. People here are gripped by the news and everyone is rooting for the “poor fella,” with lots of prayers being said in his honor. Though everyone is going on with their daily routines, there’s this slight air of sadness and worry over the town right now and I’d say you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone here who hasn’t heard the news. [Note: Two hours after I wrote this paragraph, Sinead’s mom came in to tell us that “the chap passed on.” My deepest sympathies go out to his family and loved ones.].

Even the horses wave as you walk past

The sense of community around here is one I enjoy, though I imagine the reasons that make it so likeable can also make life a bit stifling at times. There may be days that one would like to pop in and out of the store without running into a half-dozen well-intentioned but meddling acquaintances. And nothing catches speed faster than false rumor and gossip in small towns. Who wants a rare drunken fall at the pub becoming the subject of Sunday morning chitchat? The thing about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else does.

But for a girl used to Big City life, it’s a nice change of pace. Even with its obvious setbacks, I’ll take it – with a wave and a smile!