Local peccadilloes (or the peccadilloes of ‘local’)

Since working on Grow Camas, one of the most out-of-left-field things I’ve encountered is a rather indignant response from Washougal business owners. Just to add a brief caveat before I continue, I only have a couple data points, and those data points are connected, so I can’t be sure how pervasive this worldview (cityview?) is. But so far it reads as true.

At the outset, my language placed the word ‘Camas’ at the forefront. It’s where I live, the term I use to describe my community, a shorthand for my environment. “Grow Camas” is about ‘growing the local economy and my community.’ AKA, the area around me.

The city of Washougal, to the east, is tied intimately to Camas. So much so, that I didn’t really think of them as separate. Many of our local institutions, the chamber of commerce for example, serve both cities. By saying “Grow Camas”, I was mentally connecting together pretty much everything east of Vancouver, Washington, before hitting the big, mostly empty stretch of eastbound I-14 heading towards Stevenson.

Apparently, this mental connection is not universal held. And people in Washougal feel left out, less than, not part of. While I’ve been here long enough to think of the two communities together, I haven’t yet picked up on the idea that Washougal has a sort of civic self-esteem issue.

I should have known better. The aforementioned chamber of commerce is the ‘Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce.’ We have the ‘Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association’, and so on. The inclusion is specific, even if the hyphenated appellation is cumbersome.

Here’s the thing that’s most confusing to me. If my heater broke down, and contacted a local repair shop with the name “Washougal Heating and Cooling”, I wouldn’t think anything of it. It would never occur to me that this company is not for me, and rightly so, because they’d be happy to take my business. I wouldn’t think too much about “Vancouver Heating and Cooling”, either. Camas borders Vancouver on the west, just a couple of miles from where I’m sitting.

No Camas person I’ve spoke to has said, “What about Washougal?” “Do you not serve Vancouver companies?” Not sure if this is indicative of the problem, or illustrates that there isn’t one.

I think it might be about the mission-oriented nature of Grow Camas. The title reads like a non-profit. Offering free websites sounds like community service. Washougal doesn’t want to be left out? I don’t know. Grow Camas is dedicated to the local community; if someone from eastern Vancouver needed help, would I turn them away? No. But that’s not where I’m spending my energy right now.

Regardless, while not changing the name to something like “Grow Camas-Washougal”, which is clumsy, I did register GrowWashougal.com and have it pointing to GrowCamas.com. I revisited much of the language on the site to be more inclusive. I still think this is a non-issue, but regardless, I’m trying to be more transparent about my goals.

Another thing: local phone area code. Do people care that your area code is different from theirs? I guess they do. I sort of get this, even if I wish it was otherwise. Back where I grew up, there are many area codes (it’s a population-dense area), and we did assign certain judgements to other ones. Being from a “bad” one indicated something. I don’t know. Maybe this is the same as the Washougal thing. All this tribalism is tiring.

I had already registered a nearby area code (503, which is across the river in Oregon), but apparently this wasn’t close enough. So, I guess I need to buy a local 360 phone number, so I don’t look ‘foreign’, even though I live here. It’s silly, but I see it as an unavoidable, if unfortunate, business expense. I don’t want to undermine my local credibility by having the wrong prefix. :/

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