October 16, 2013

Minnesota.

I posted this on Facebook last week, and I thought I'd expand on it a bit more.

Minnesota has been disarming the armour I never even knew I'd built up over the years.

I'm not used to strangers smiling at me and giving me warm hellos. I'm not used to people letting me in on the freeway, or not honking at me if I don't gun it the instant the light turns green. I'm not used to not being tailgated. I'm not used to being pulled over by a police officer for minor speeding, having a friendly conversation, and being let off with a warning instead of a ticket. I'm not used to the hotel clerk chatting me up and cracking an inside joke she and I have whenever I walk out to my car. I'm not used to going to a gay bar on pride and hanging out with 5 locals for an entire night and sharing a lot of laughs. I'm not used to having a girl I'd met just once in passing walk past me and call out my name and stop to say Hello. I'm not used to walking around town with a relaxed smile on my face rather than a serious, "I'm going somewhere" face. I'm not used to questioning my reflex thought of, "What do you want from me?" when a stranger talks to me. I'm not used to not being asked, "Where are you from? No, I mean where are you REALLY from?" I'm not used to being in a small town and not being stared at.

I'm not used to this now, but I sure could get used to it!

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I'd never been to Minnesota until my current consulting contract brought me here. I wasn't sure what it was going to be like. I mean, I'd heard nice things about Minnesota - in fact, there's actually something called "Minnesota Nice"!

But, I knew I was going to be in a small town. And so I was bracing myself for stares from people, or ignorant questions about "where I'm from".

Nope. Didn't happen, not even once.

Instead, what I've found is that people are, well, nice here! How people treat each other here reminds me a lot of how people in the farming communities I grew up near treated each other. They were polite and respectful to one another, and helped each other out.

I think this is a pretty good way to live!

Man, I'll never forget when I was at the Renaissance Festival here in September. I was in a crowd of people about to watch the jousting tournament. And this dude next to me whips out a cigarette. 

He says to me, "Oh, I'm sorry - do you mind if I smoke? I don't want to bother you."

Wait, what?! Nobody's asked me that in YEARS! "Uhhh, sure - yeah, go ahead," I stammered. He must have thought I was an afternoon lush or something. 

Now, that being said, the flip side of "Minnesota Nice" is that people can keep their true feelings about things a bit hidden. People express their displeasure at things, but it's very subtle. Doesn't take long to pick up, though.

People are just really relaxed around here. By contrast, Toronto, while I love you SO much, you need to chill out a bit!

So here's what I'll do for you, Toronto. I'll be visiting you for a weekend in a few weeks...

I'll make sure to bring a bit of Minnesota back to you, and maybe it'll help you calm down and relax a bit.