Wednesday, October 28, 2009

on my honor

My little blogger bio over on the right simply gives my location as "Northern Virginia," but I actually live in a town called Vienna.  I was born here, actually.  Vienna likes to present itself as a small town and, many years ago, it actually was one.  It even had a unique name, Ayr Hill (after early settlers, the Ayrs), until the townsfolk decided that Vienna was more European and dignified.  Or something.  Anyway, mad suburban sprawl have long since turned Vienna into just a small piece of the D.C. Metropolitan area, but every once in awhile something happens to remind me of Vienna's small town roots.

Yesterday morning, as I was heading into town to begin my dog-walking/pet-sitting rounds, I remembered that I needed something from the hardware store.  There's a little place right on the main drag, and I was going right past it, so I decided to stop there.  This is a true mom-and-pop enterprise, the kind of place that hangs family portraits over the register and sells local produce and preserves alongside hammers and nails.  I was familiar with it, but I hadn't been there in a long time.  As it turned out, my purchase was rather small and I didn't have enough cash.  Actually, I didn't have ANY cash, and the amount was too little for the owner to charge.  I was standing there, wracking my morning-fogged brain for ways I could make this work, when the owner pulled me out of my stupor.

"Do you live nearby?" he asked, and surprised, I answered that I did.  "Then bring it to me when you can."  Now, I had heard of store owners using honor systems before, in myth and legend, but had never experienced it myself, and certainly not here.  I stuttered out a thank you and ran through the rain to my car, determined to hit an ATM as soon as I was finished with my rounds.  Not two hours later, the gentleman had my $2.46.

"I didn't expect to see you so soon!" he exclaimed as I walked in, and I smiled at him.  The amount might have been small, but the gesture of trust had not been.  It made me glad to claim this town as mine.

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