PRINCETON — In the winter of 2010, I left the city of Charleston, W.Va., for the last time as a resident. I was very bitter toward everything in that city when I left. I couldn’t wait to drive past a sign that welcomed me to Fayette County on the long drive back to Princeton.
I’m not sure why I had become so bitter at a city that I had loved two years earlier. I can’t really point to any one thing that made me want to leave so much that I would agree to go to the People’s Republic of China before moving to Charleston, S.C., when we got back.
It could have been the people of the city. Charleston, W.Va., lies roughly about halfway between the Midwest, the Northeast, and the South and, as such, displays characteristics of all three regions.
It’s lot like South Carolina there. There are all kinds of factories like you used to be able to find in the Midwest before draconian government policies and overzealous unions drove them off. And there are people that are about as friendly as an undertaker from the Northeast.
I’d walk into a store, say, AT&T or even JC Penney. I’d look around and no one would take the initiative to ask if I needed help with something. As always, I would, and I managed to find the most aggravating person that made helping me seem like I was cutting off his or her left big toe.
It also might have been the weather. Like Princeton, Charleston sits in Four Seasons Country. Only, Charleston is more extreme. In the summer temperatures are routinely above 90 degrees.
That might not be bad if I had air-conditioning that actually, you know, worked. Our apartment used a series of three window air units that couldn’t cool down an ice cube, much less a one-bedroom apartment across from a black roof.
One time, I got the brilliant idea to block off a section of the house to cool by putting curtains on the doors. Sadly, I stuck them up with a combination of duct tape (goodbye, security deposit). They stayed up right until Katie, our cat, decided they needed to come down about five minutes later.
As miserable as the summer was, winter was even worse. Our apartment sat on the third floor of the building. High enough to catch the summer’s baking heat, but not low enough to hold heat in the winter.
On my wife’s last day at work, it was 28 degrees outside our apartment and 25 degrees inside. The cat was so cold that she crawled into a box of bags to get warm.
Or, it might have been the bad drivers.
Yes, people behind the wheel in Mercer County make cutting others off, pulling out in front of other people, and driving at least 10 mph less than the speed limit an art form, but it’s nothing like in Charleston.
Just imagine having all of those people, plus people that are driving very aggressively to try to get home or to work; then, throw in a bunch of people overwhelmed with the idea of three lanes of traffic, and smaller roads, and you’ve got what happens in the Kanawha Valley on a daily basis.
One gentleman in particular got on my nerves. He drove a relatively large SUV and would always park way too close to the cars around him. He did this to me probably 15 times in 25 days.
Being bitter, I decided to stop this guy for once and for all time. I saw his car, and like usual, he was inches off the bumper of the car in front of him. I pulled so close to his bumper that he couldn’t have backed out of there if he had a crow bar.
I never saw that car that much after that. I guess he decided to park his car somewhere else.
In short, I don’t know why I hated life in Charleston, but I do know that I love life in Mercer County. Plus, I’m not all bitter all the time. Yay! Mercer County!
Matt Christian is a Princeton Times reporter. Contact him a firstname.lastname@example.org.