Less than five years ago, the morning commute to Spokane from Witty’s Mini-Mart and Self-Serve at Loon Lake on Highway 395 was almost pleasant.
Over a period of years, everyone had become acquainted with one another to where we were, more or less, on a first-name basis. Since we all bought gas from Witty’s, we often would stand around affably sipping coffee while waiting for the gas pump or simply to discuss the latest Stevens County gossip that passed for news in those days.
We bought our fuel, jumped in our cars and trucks and then, our informal cadre of mechanically-equipped friends complete, off we would go to Spokane.
If we saw one of our number stuck in the snow, we would stop and lend a hand. If someone’s car broke down, the family was notified, told where the driver was and, in some cases, what tools to bring to set matters to rights.
In short, although we didn’t always know one another’s last names, we knew one another in a way that strangers facing a common enemy often do.
Today, the number of people who make the daily commute from Stevens County to Spokane has nearly tripled, many of the newcomers from Deer Park alone. Country chic is now so popular that on any given morning, there simply isn’t enough time - or space inside Witty’s Mini-Mart - for everyone.
Strangers abound. Strangers whose only interest is to climb into their cars and, as quickly as possible, race like hell to Spokane.
Instead of a semi-casual cruise down Highway 395 with nameless friends all around, the trip from Loon Lake has become a grudge run, fraught with danger, overcrowding and the faceless anonymity that it never once had.
Sad to say, I have moved to the city, bought a house on the north side, and no longer commute, at all. I am one of the fortunate few who have a contractual relationship that allows me to work at home now with only once- or twice-a-week meetings to break up the serenity.
I will always remember those days with fondness. People were more human then, and we enjoyed a genuine sense of camaraderie, a kinship that warmed us, kept us smiling and always surprised us with how deeply felt it could be.
MEMO: Your Turn is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a Your Turn column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write Your Turn, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.