EDITORIAL: Get to know a townie

Peter Gillette

Last Saturday, the “townies” were out in full force. They swarmed our turf, it seemed, leaving in their wake a littered, deafened campus. So the cynics would say.

But while Octoberfest perhaps got a tad too rowdy, I think the townies participated in something wonderful in this day and age. Perhaps Lawrentians were a bit inconvenienced by the event, but civic gatherings like Octoberfest—people joining together just to enjoy classic rock, crafts, and each other’s company—are becoming increasingly rare in modern life.

Throughout the next few weeks, The Lawrentian will be examining what might be termed Appletonian Anthropology. Last Saturday, we made the rounds of Octoberfest and even spent the evening talking to passersby on the Ave.

Admittedly, we perhaps set out to poke fun at cruisers or extract humorous anecdotes from drunk Octoberfesters, but in the end a different view of Appleton began to emerge.

Through elitist eyes, it’s easy to see an event like last Saturday only as a swarm of drunkenly groping Skynrd fans. But think for a moment: when’s the last time a thousand Lawrentians were in one place at one time, just chewing the fat?

So many of us sit behind our computer screens with our Instant Messenger on until Friday night comes along, and then we party with our clique. When’s the last time you met someone totally unfamiliar to you and struck up a conversation, if only about the Packers?

I stood outside several bars Saturday night with my colleagues, tape recorders in hand, and just watched people talk to one another. Pubescent cruisers, elderly couples, Lawrentians, visiting twentysomethings, and plain old hardworking adults all talked to one another and shared the same mile of space.

Your task for the term is to initiate at least one three-minute conversation with a “pesky” townie. Maybe it means going to a garage sale: now that you know your course reading lists, you might even be able to pick up a paperback or two that you need for class at one of those.

It might mean responding to some small talk from the woman in line with you at Copp’s. It might mean, if you’re of age, mingling with the other crowd Jekyl’s one night. It might mean visiting a nursing home with some friends and just listening.

But as we have been charged this year to use our liberal arts education to civically engage ourselves, let us smile at least for a moment that people still get together, flesh and blood. So what if they weren’t meeting with some grand, political purpose?

If we are to expand Lawrence’s mission beyond our three square blocks, if we are to grow as citizens, if we are to become adults, we are going to have to begin dealing with people not necessarily like ourselves.

We can learn a lot from them. Townies are people, not just punch lines.

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