Life in a small town has its advantages; store merchants, restaurateurs, the grocery store manager, even the staff at the power company know you by name. Mountain folks are infectiously nice and everyone knows just about everyone. In Waynesville, word-of-mouth is the most efficient method of advertising, and a leisurely trip through town is more preferred than using the “four-lane” to get somewhere twice as fast. You take your time here, there is no such thing as rush hour.
We do have traffic issues, probably not as bad as some of your Interstates and demolition derby roadways, but I bet you can’t imagine how frustrating it is to get caught behind a tractor doing 8 MPH or having to wait for two or three cars at stop sign!
People refer to the relaxed pace as “mountain time.” At first I didn’t understand, then I had a project that required some hired help. I found out quickly that mountain time is another way of saying, “I’ll get there when I get there.” Unless of course, it's hunting season, or fishing season, or the hay needs baling, or a neighbor needs a hand, then they might be delayed. Oh, and don’t jump to the wrong conclusion if someone asks you to meet them at dinner time, around here dinner is that big meal you eat at noon, the lighter fare eaten at sunset is supper.
Everything moves “a mite slower” here and with far less stress. That’s one reason why I never go to McDonalds. The main thoroughfare that connects Waynesville to Maggie Valley and Smoky Mountain Expressway is Russ Avenue. This is where all of the banks, grocery stores and fast food restaurants have congregated. A while back, CVS decided that our bustling metropolis was in need of one more pharmacy. They bought a tract of land next to McDonalds and built a brand new, state-of-the-art, brick-faced architectural abomination with almost no parking for the few people that actually shop there. The new construction also ruined the access to the iconic greasy-burger-and-fries merchant, so the restaurant rebuilt, expanded and worsened the situation. I do my best to avoid that area; it seems like every other day someone turning into the tiny entrance at Micky D’s, gets rear ended. I’ll stick with Wendy’s.
In addition to the commercialization of Russ Avenue and a similar cancerous growth across town where Walmart built a supercenter and a suburban-esque strip mall, Waynesville still has an active, quaint, Norman Rockwell-type downtown. Main Street is the social and literal center of our community; it is where everyone meets for whatever reason. In addition to a variety of restaurants, taverns, boutiques, clothing stores, art galleries, the bakery, and of course, a Mast General Store, it is the location of the monthly First Friday open house, Art After Dark, various festivals, street dances and holiday parades. Our downtown is within an easy walking distance to the post office, police station, library, the Justice Center and Court House, our community theater and farmer’s market, plus at least a dozen churches.
If there is any disadvantage to maintaining a traditional downtown, it is parking. There is a free parking garage at the Justice Center and several strategically placed municipal parking lots, but the most cherished spaces are the spots along both sides of the street. With the possible exception of leaf season, when all you flat-landers come up to experience our mountain hospitality and incredible autumn views, it is never too difficult to find a convenient place to leave my truck for an evening in town. But I, like everyone else, must first drive the length of Main Street looking for that illusive, curb-side spot. Don’t get me wrong, there is always at least one vacant space, but it will be on the other side of the street and taken before I can get turned around. Geez, I end up having to walk a whole block or more just to get where I’m going.