The zip code in my hometown of Springdale, Arkansas, is 72764. Not long ago, one of my sisters gave me a T-shirt with those numbers spelled out on the front. I assume she was trying to help prevent me from forgetting where I came from.
When you move away from somewhere, forgetting where you came from is a cardinal sin, right up there with failing to call your mother on a regular basis or adopting the accent of wherever you moved to.
A college acquaintance of my husband’s committed the latter offense and it was truly sobering to witness. I had met this person a few times before she moved to the U.K., and she talked normal. But then she came back to Chicago for the wedding of mutual friends and she sounded like Eliza Doolittle.
“Do you have a British accent now?” someone (it might have been me) asked.
“Blimey!” she replied (I’m paraphrasing). “I don’t ‘ear it, guvnah!”
Clearly, someone who cared about her should have, at some point, given her a T-shirt emblazoned with her hometown’s zip code. She had forgotten where she came from.
I suppose my sister could have given me a T-shirt with 479 printed on it. That’s the area code in Springdale. But I feel no emotional connection to those numbers because 479 wasn’t introduced until after I had left the state. Before that, the area code in northwest Arkansas was 501 as the Lord intended.
Besides, 479 covers a lot of other towns in the region as well, so the shirt could give people the impression that I’m from, say, Fayetteville or Rogers, and we can’t have that.
Back in my day, Fayetteville was considered the cool kid in the area because it’s home to the University of Arkansas, and college towns tend to have an air of youthful hipness. Not to mention a relatively tolerant regard for the arts, Democrats, and other abominations I have a soft spot for.
On Dickson Street in Fayetteville, there’s even a sex shop called Condom Sense. I never stepped inside but I assumed the Sodom and Gomorrah chapter of Genesis provided an accurate description of the interior. (Boy, did I want to step inside.)
Springdale, meanwhile, smelled like animal waste on an industrial scale due to our collection of Tyson Foods poultry processing plants. Our dusty main thoroughfare, Emma Avenue, was all but deserted save for a hardware store that also sold furniture and I want to say livestock feed?
Listen, I’m not saying it was Belle-Époque Paris, but home is home.
Recently, Springdale has gussied itself up considerably with new bars and restaurants, coffee shops, a bicycling path, and street murals. The downtown business district has become almost unrecognizable, what with the addition of actual businesses. A significant number of Latino and Pacific Islander immigrants have moved in over the last couple decades, too. So at least there’s a little variety nowadays, peoplewise.
It’s still not the hottest city in the 479, though. Fayetteville has lost that title to Bentonville, located in the next county to the north.
Because Walmart is headquartered there, a lot of corporate types and young professionals have relocated to the vicinity, bringing with them their demands for the trappings of affluent suburbia—wine bars, cute boutiques, cultural venues, and so on.
I couldn’t tell you why these Walmart-affiliated folks don’t do something to make Walmart stores themselves pleasant, or at least bearable, for shoppers, or at least employees. But then, I’ve never had a head for business.