Discovering a big city can be good and bad

Published 9:49 am Friday, March 28, 2014

Things I Tell My Wife, by Matthew Knutson

“I don’t think Home Depot is going to have your orange juice,” I told my wife before heading to the home improvement retailer. We’re still adjusting to the big-city life in Rochester, and there are clearly some stores that she’s unfamiliar with.

We’re discovering this city together. It’s just the latest in discoveries that comes with marriage. We’ve discovered what it’s like to live together, how to take care of a pet and how to pass the time on a long road trip (free audio books). It’s about time we discovered an entirely new place.

Email newsletter signup

Our new home is right along the running path, so we’ll likely be discovering where that leads in the coming months. The path’s current purpose is to make us feel guilty that we’re not exercising like the many people running by our back porch as it snows. The path provides our dog with potential best friends to bark away. I think it may lead to a grocery store, so when we do start running, we’ll be able to get a doughnut to snack on for our trip back home.

Speaking of movement, we’re discovering the concept of driving everywhere we go. In small-town Iowa, we walked pretty much everywhere we went. I walked to work every day, and for fun in the summer, we’d walk the 5-kilometer route that went around practically the entire town. Traffic isn’t exactly a problem here, but there are always cars going somewhere.

Late last night we actually heard a large truck drive past. The only thing we heard at night in Forest City was the college kids who lived off campus in a house next to ours who had a howling basset hound.

I should also clarify that “late” means 9 or 10 p.m. My wife and I have discovered that we’re on the sleep schedule of senior citizens. The city never sleeps, but we’re certainly getting our eight hours of sleep a night. It’s probably because our social life has slowed down as we’re just beginning to meet the people of our new community.

Discovering our new churches has been an interesting process. We’ve always gone to two services, a Catholic service for me and a more contemporary service for Sera.

The first Catholic church we went to greeted us with a hobbit-like woman and an elderly lady decorated from head to toe in St. Patrick’s Day garb. The contemporary church came with a worship music leader that we’re pretty sure has an auto-tuned microphone (but doesn’t need it, if that means anything to you) and a countdown clock displaying how many minutes until their next service will begin.

Did you know that to get a driver’s licence in Minnesota you have to take the written test, even if you have a valid license in another state and a perfect driving record? That’s one of the unfortunate discoveries we’ve encountered.

The Department of Motor Vehicles here doesn’t even have booklets of the Minnesota Driver’s Manual, so we’ve been studying the PDF version of the 99-page document. Apparently having Internet access to download the manual is now a requirement to get a license.

Perhaps the biggest discovery we’ve been making is the numerous retail options available to us. Sure, Home Depot is closest to us, but we could always go to Menard’s, Lowe’s, Fleet Farm or Ace Hardware for my wife’s orange juice needs.

The stores here seem endless, and with that come great deals. Do we need chips for dinner? I can drive to the grocery store and grab an off-brand option for half the price. Just the other day Sera drove to all of the grocery stores and made a list to compare prices of products we buy all the time. The cheap person that I’ve always had to suppress while living in a small town is eager to discover the great deals that come with a bigger city.

Discovery is something that everyone can do in their own community. Every day I’m coming home from work and telling my wife about a new place we should go visit. Just weeks before we moved my wife realized there was an eye doctor in Forest City.

If Sera can discover something new in small-town Iowa, there’s something worth discovering everywhere, even if it’s something as simple as Home Depot not stocking orange juice.


Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.