WILSON: Trying something different

Published 7:11 am Saturday, March 6, 2021

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At 10 minutes after 3 p.m. on a sunny spring afternoon, Big John Hudson stepped from the Amtrak train and took in the ambience of his new surroundings. He was about to embark on the next chapter of his life.

John had lived at the Center of the Universe for all of the 30 [brief] years of his existence. It was a pleasant, full, yet predictable life — starting every morning at Sarah’s Diner, and joined by the usual members of the Circular Congregation Breakfast Club. However, recently, he began to yearn for something different. Not something more meaningful, more exciting or even more pleasant — just something different.

After much thought and consideration, Big John decided the most logical thing to do was take his prize cow and relocate to a small Indiana town. He toyed with the idea of moving to an equally small Nebraska town, but worried that the population of a small town in Indiana is comparable to a booming metropolis in Nebraska — and John didn’t want all that big-city, Cornhusker, hustle and bustle upsetting the sensitivities of his prize cow.

The sight of John and his cow strolling away from the train station was something not often seen on the streets of Hoosierville — but it had been seen before. Therefore, it did not cause much of a stir. To be clear, John did not charge off on this adventure all willy-nilly. Prior to his exodus, he got on Craigslist and found a small house for rent, just outside of his chosen new town. The advertisement said that pets were allowed, and John signed a lease, sight unseen. Likewise, his new landlord accepted John’s pet, sight unseen. Big John Hudson and his prize cow were ready for something different.

The next morning, Big John eagerly entered the local diner, anticipating joining his new neighbors in stimulating morning conversation — just like he had always done at Sarah’s. He walked through the front door, ready to toss his hat down on the big, round, communal table —just like at Sarah’s. But there wasn’t one. Instead, John found a long counter and a half-dozen booths, with patrons keeping to themselves or in small groups of two or three.

This wasn’t Sarah’s Diner. This was different.

Back at the Center of the Universe, John sold water softeners. When he decided to do something different, he transferred to his new town, so he could do the same thing someplace different. His usual sales technique was to visit a potential customer, test their water, and if it was hard, he would try to sell them a softener — because that is what you need if you have hard water. If their water wasn’t hard, he would try to sell them a softener anyway — because it made their hair and skin feel good after a shower. The folks in his new town did not like soft water. They felt it wasn’t natural. This was different.

The pattern continued. The town was set up differently, the timing of the stoplights was different, even the cans on the grocery store shelves were in different places. Everything was different. However, John’s prize cow didn’t seem to notice any difference at all. The grass in John’s new backyard was just as sweet as the grass in his mom’s backyard, back home at the Center of the Universe.

Eventually, Big John Hudson came to the conclusion that different isn’t always better — it’s just different. He started to yearn for the sameness he once yearned to escape. He wanted the same street alignment, the same stoplight timing, the same cans in the same places on the same grocery store shelves, and (most of all) he wanted the same friends every morning at breakfast.

Fortunately for John, his boss liked his work ethic and ability to sell water softeners to folks that liked how their hair and skin felt after a shower.

Equally fortunate, John’s landlord was quite willing to terminate his lease — once he found out the nature of John’s pet. Big John Hudson returned home to the Center of the Universe, happy to have done something different, and equally happy to not be doing it anymore.


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com.