Thursday, April 16, 2009

try a little tenderness

for the past 9+ years, i have lived in, according to many, some of the world's most rude cities, (rudest? most rude?) and i always forget about it when i am coming back to the midwest. the whole country thinks bostonians are rude, except for massholes. the world thinks the french, in particular parisians, are rude. [i don't completely agree - they have a different way of looking at things, but i do understand why people think they're rude.] californians, although normally thought of as having a "fake" disposition, are a bit different in sacramento. not entirely rude, but since the majority of the city works for the state, people are slightly disgruntled, in general. sometimes this comes off as rude.

and i think after living in boston, paris, and sacramento, i have grown accustomed to indifference and big city life. the past few months in fargo have been eye-opening. take today, for example. my mom's co-worker at the hospital had surgery to repair some disc in her back and so she is home for a few weeks recovering. rather than sending cards or flowers, my mom MADE a homemade meal and brought it over to her house for her family to enjoy. and this woman doesn't live close. i drove my mom to south fargo so we could pick up some of our own dinner on the way home (not a homecooked meal for me today - ha). we got there and i thought it would be rude for me to just drop in because i dont know this woman and she just had surgery and might not want to be friendly to other people. my mom didn't really care, so i sat in the car and played on my ipod. then, while waiting for my mom, i realized that what i had done might actually be rude - rather than the opposite, which was my goal. here in the midwest, you don't really just DROP by someone's house. you plan to stay for a while. i should've gone in to say hi and wish her recovery well. but since i'm so used to not imposing on people and not really "dropping by," i ended up being rude.

this really hit me a few months ago when our family friend's daughter dropped by to pick up a pillow her mother had left at our house. the daughter, wendy, and i used to hang out when we were younger, but she is younger than me and lived 5 hours away, so we weren't close. whenever our parents got together we would hang out, though. anyway, wendy now lives to the west of us in minnesota with her husband and her parents live to the east of us - we are almost half way between her new house and her parents house. anyway, her mom, jill, forgot a pillow at my parents house last summer when they were in town visiting. jill really wanted the pillow, so when wendy was driving through town to visit them, jill told her to pick up the pillow. so one night, wendy calls the house phone and asks if we were going to be home for a while. i told her we were going to a movie and was about to say that i could leave the pillow on the table and she could just come in and get it while we were gone, and she immediately said, "ok, i'll stop by tomorrow then." ok, no problem. the next day, when she stopped by, i had the pillow ready and she came in the front door and took off her shoes immediately. it hit me. she was coming to visit! this would never have occurred to me! i just assumed she'd say hi, grab the pillow and go. and she is SUCH a NICE person, i really like wendy. she stayed for about a half hour and my dad came downstairs and eric came out of the computer room to say hi and so the 5 of us sat there talking to her. it was very refreshing and i could not believe that i didn't pick up that she was actually coming to catch up.

i've noticed my new rudeness at other times, as well. about a year ago, i was living in boston and came home for some reason. i was at target and i bumped into someone when turning a corner. i was about to keep walking when the woman said, "oh! excuse me!" in a very friendly, apologetic tone. i immediately apologized as well and then realized that if she hadn't said anything, i would'nt have thought to say anything. in boston, people bump into each other all the time and don't think anything of it. they don't take it personally, but they don't feel they have to apologize, either. i coudln't belive how rude i had become! i try to apologize, but sometimes i am just in my own world and don't even notice when i bump into someone.

friendliness is even more prevalent in northern north dakota. my mother grew up in the small town of walhalla, nd (current population 1,000) - about 5 miles from canada and 20 miles from minnesota (or something like that). whenever my brothers and i go up there to visit, if we are driving around in our car and we pass someone, we have to put up your hand and wave at the passing car. a very few people don't do this, so we play this game - will they? or won't they? and we try not to be the last ones to wave. you always feel bad when someone waves and you don't because you aren't prepared to, so we try to just wave all the time. a few years ago, my freshman year college roommate came home with me to fargo for a week. my mom and i took her up to walhalla so she could see small-town life (she's from right outside of boston). we stayed at the one motel in town and had a full dinner for 4 people for about $17 total. we went to the gas station to rent a movie for the night. i walked in and asked the woman behind the counter if they rented VCRs, as well. she looked at me befuddled, "well, yes." so my friend, kate, and i picked out a movie to watch. i went to the counter and said, "we'd like to rent this and a VCR, please." the cashier looked at me and said, "but, but... you're not local." i laughed to myself. this is true. "right, but my aunt is." "who is your aunt?" "vicki cook." "ooh, ok." and then she gave me the VCR and movie without taking a look at my drivers license or anything. i think it was like $5 to rent the two together.

especially during the times of the flood the past month or so, friendliness and community have never been so prevalent to me before. it can be rather refreshing. everyone should come to north dakota to visit.


  1. i do believe that the tony and jill live to the WEST (in minot) which is west of fargo... so that means that minnesota is to the EAST... just thought i would let you know...

  2. lol. you're right. thanks.

    readers: reverse and reprint. i'm an idiot. i was thinking mexico was north.

  3. Love the little shout out for my mom and my hometown. I play the little wave game myself. If I forget to wave and that person sees me later on they will make a point to bring up the fact that I didn't wave to them. haha!

  4. crazy stuff, trying to figure out local etiquette (or lack thereof). your entry made me laugh out loud.

  5. subject: although made popular by otis redding in 1966, this song was originally written in the 30s...