Earlier this week, 37 million profiles registered with adultery website AshleyMadison.com were made public. The hack, if nothing else, proved one thing: Everywhere you look, there are aspiring adulterers willing to pay a monthly fee for the option of cheating on their spouse. Everywhere you look, unless, of course, you live in one of the three zip codes in America that have zero Ashley Madison users.
That’s not to say there are definitely cheaters in America’s other 43,000-odd zip codes; there’s no easy way to differentiate how many of accounts were, for example, created by bots. So while it’s entirely possible that none of the fine residents of Waldron, WA (Ashley Madison accounts: 1) or even Hollenberg, KS (Ashley Madison accounts: 3) ever actually tried to cheat via the dating website, there’s one thing we can say with absolute certainty—if you live in one of these three zip codes, your spouse may be cheating on you, but it’s a pretty fair bet he or she isn’t doing it on Ashley Madison.
So here they are—the last three places in America where people cheat the old-fashioned way.
Nikolai, AK: 99691
Of Nikolai’s 90-odd residents, approximately zero are cheating on their spouses through the Ashley Madison website. So what are they doing instead? Great question.
According to Nancy Vanderpool, the emergency firefighter who answered the phone number listed on the City of Nikolai’s Facebook page, anywhere between 10 to 12 of those people are currently studying at the town’s joint elementary-high school.
There are, according to Unitedstateszipcodes.com, 26 husband and wife family households spread across the town’s 4.5 square miles of land, where it costs $114.25 to overnight a package from New York City. There are about 50 houses, most of which draw their own water. And they’ve been doing it for a while: most residents are Athabaskan—indigenously Alaskan—so they’re somewhat used to the extreme temperatures (as low as 60 below zero in the winter).
But not all of them.
Expounds Vanderpool, “We’ve had a few people move into town that are not basically from here, that married into the community, so they moved in, they started families of their own.”
The married couples are the ones that have been around forever, so you know. There’s quite a few couples, there’s a lot of single guys but then there’s a lot of couples too, though. More males than anything.
And they’re not arranging extramarital trysts, either. At least not online. Also, they don’t have time for your bullshit. Before hanging up on me, Vanderpool explains in a genuinely polite tone, “I don’t know how you got my number, but I need to free up this phone because I have customers waiting to use the credit card. And I really don’t have the time to be talking with you right now about cheating on spouses, or whatever, gawkers.”
Perryville, AK: 99648
About 500 miles southwest of Anchorage (Ashley Madison accounts: roughly 16,312) lies the small town of Perryville, bordered by mountains, ocean, and an active volcano.
Dana Phillips, who works for the Perryville Village Council, is the first—and, it turns out, only—person I’ll speak to who’s even heard of Ashley Madison. And that’s only because she reads the news: When I describe the website hack, she laughs and asks if it’s the “Ashley Madison dot com scandal,” explaining she only heard of the site for the first time last week.
Is that why no one from her town is on it? “It could be the lack of knowledge,” she says. “Or also that most people out here don’t have an internet connection.”
Most were born there, and although some move out, they often come back. About 98% of the town’s population is an Alaska Native or part Native, according to the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference.
And according to Phillips, it’s more of an “IRL” kind of society.
“There’s maybe roughly ten households that have internet” in the entire town, she says.
So what are Perryville’s residents doing instead of browsing Ashley Madison profiles? Well fishing, for one thing. Riding ATVs and skiffs. And appreciating nature, whatever that means.
“It’s beautiful,” Phillips says in an almost reverential tone. “The black, sandy beaches with the ocean in front of the mountains. Blue skies. There’s islands in front, a volcano that’s about 40 to 50 miles behind us. It’s subsistence resources—fish, dairy. Everybody that comes through says its the most beautiful place they’ve ever seen.”
Polvadera, NM: 87828
“It’s a small, quiet town,” says Betty, a courthouse employee who answers the phone at the Soccoro County clerk’s office. Small—about four square miles—quiet, and rural. Which is to say there’s plenty of open land and, practically speaking, little to no internet access.
“That’s probably why [no one’s on Ashley Madison], because you can’t get reception in that area,” Betty, who has never heard of Ashley Madison, explains. “Because sometimes I try to use my phone, because my dad lives over there, and when I would try to call there’s no reception until you get closer to the road.”
And that’s somewhat intentional, Betty says: It used to be “older people who have lived there from generation to generation.” And although there’s been “a lot of other people that have moved there,” new residents are generally looking “to move out in the outskirts.”
It is, according to the real estate site Realtor.com, possible to purchase a home with almost 80 acres of land for less than $900,000—significantly less than the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in New York.
A Polvadera lot for sale via Trulia.com
And sure, Polvaderans might be cheating offline, but when they’re not, “It’s agriculture and Army and animals.”
It’s a nice, quiet town. There’s not even a grocery store or anything there. You have to go to Mesilla Park which is a few miles out, there’s a gas station and a convenience store and that’s about it, til you get to Soccoro. There’s no library or anything there, no schools.
Actually, there is a Midway school, Betty says, “a couple miles from here.” Its students, blissfully unaware of Ashley Madison, have never used ratemyprofessor.com, either.
Image by Tara Jacoby. Additional reporting by Tim Burke. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org