Monday, May 09, 2005

(Not Really) Feeling Minnesota [Part III & IV: The Bad & The Ugly]

Well, we've hit the good aspects of the lovely Land of 10,000 Lakes (but who's counting?), but nothing is ever perfect, right? So, after five years of living in Minnesota, what aspects of this place annoy me? Well, there are many things. Buckle up, because it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Let's start with the most obvious problem with this state: the cold winters and snow. Look, if you go back and look at the Minnesota calendar of weather, you would see that it is possible that we could have nine months where it snowed. It even snowed in May. IN MAY!!! As in Spring. At one point last December we had a day that was -40 degrees (F) with wind chill. This begs the first question: how can it be colder than zero? (I'm being sarcastic. Please don't try to answer this question.) I don't mind cold and snow. I love it, but there comes a point when months of seeing nothing but white and dead trees begins to take its toll. I'm surprised that the suicide rate here in Minnesota isn't higher. I mean this place is a lot like Scandanavia (hence why so many of them immigrated here). There are towns that only exist in the winter months, because the lakes freeze over and everyone can move back. That's just not right.
Granted, they do take care of the roads here. However, as a teacher, I sure would like a snow day at some point. I mean the last day off that students had was when former governor Jesse "the Mind" Ventura (I'm not even touching that one) told everyone to stay home, because it was like -60 degrees (F) with wind chill. It was unsafe for children to go outside. The way this weather is defended is with people saying it makes you live longer and makes you healthier. Sure, sure. Did you know not eating lava will help you live longer? It's the same principle. But I digress.
Ok, so some people like the nine months of snow. They say, "Leab, get over it. It's great. We can use our Arctic Cats, ski, whatever." Fine. Like I said, I don't mind the cold and snow. It just gets depressingly gray sometimes. But there are other aspects of the state that are even more frustrating. Let's talk about the people of Minnesota and one of their customs: Minnesota Nice.
First of all, Minnesotans are cliquey (Remember, they call me a transplant). That's right, they travel in cliques. If you aren't from here, it is very hard to break into the clique. When I first moved here in 2000, I went to work with a bunch of Minnesotans. I was the only one in the office not from the state. When I was asked, "where did you go to school?" I did not realize that they meant high school. I thought it meant college. As soon as they knew I wasn't from here, that was it for me. I was pretty much shunned. All because I wasn't from here.
At this point, you're probably thinking, "Leab, that happens everywhere." Au contraire, mon ami. You go to Missouri, also a midwestern state, and you can strike up conversations with people in stores without out getting funny looks or ignored. When I went to my reunion, I ended up talking to people I didn't know and loving it. It's hard to do that here because of the Minnesotan way.
"But," you're probably thinking,"What about this 'Minnesota Nice' I keep hearing about?" Well, that's a code. You see Minnesota Nice is thought to be where the people are so nice no matter what. Here's what it really is: a smile at your face and a knife in your back. I'm from the East Coast, and I have no problem speaking my mind. If I don't like your sweater, I'll tell you if you ask me. You want my opinion? Fine, but I won't sugar coat. Minnesotans, however, cannot do that. Instead of just saying how they feel, they turn it back to you. "Ooohh, I don't knooow. How do you feel?" Oy! Look, it's basically a passive-aggressive behavior. Think of the following as an example:
Person A and Person B work together. Person A opens the window, because he is really warm. B is annoyed. Instead of telling A, she instead goes to A's desk and says:
"Hey A. Do you really think that the window needs to be opened?"
Notice the passive-agressiveness of the question? If A says yes it does, then he seems rude, but if he says no, then the question becomes why did he open the window in the first place? Either way, A looks bad.
This is really what Minnesota Nice is. Instead of just putting forward an opinion, they used their "politeness" (as they call it) to make you rethink your position. It's really annoying.
Minnesotan personality reaches across many aspects of life here, even the language. I had never, EVER, heard, "oh for cute" (that's so cute), "ish" (that's disgusting), or (and this is the WORST) "Borrow me $10." This last one is an affront to the English language. If someone said to me "Borrow me ____," my first thought would be that they want me to borrow the item from someone else for them. Nope. Sorry Ken Jennings, that's wrong. They mean can you lend (AND THE PROPER TERM IS LEND) them the item.
You want more? Ok. Driving in the great state of Minnesota is like getting on the Air Tram at Newark Airport. Everyone pushes and shoves to get on, there's no room. Inevitably someone screws it up for everyone else by having a foot or a bag in the door. So, in order to save time, here's the checklist of problems:
1. No one can merge. Granted you were all screwed by ramp meters, but again, that passive-aggressive nature comes out when you drive. A person gets on a ramp doing 60. As he or she tries to merge, a person already on the highway speeds up to go the same speed. As the merging person speeds up, so does the other person, who is intent on not having a car in front of them. The merging person slows down, so the other person slows down. The merger is left with no choice: Hit the brakes hard, swing in, and pray. It sucks. Most accidents happen in the merge lane.
2. No one understands which lanes to drive in. The right lane is the slow lane, the left lane is the passing lane. For the love of Mike, don't go 40 (40!) in the passing lane.
3. Rubberneckers galore! Holy hell. I was on 94 a few days ago and there was an accident in the left lane. People slowed to 10 miles per hour and stared at the people on the side of the road. You watch and it's almost as if they are hoping it's someone they know so they can gossip. I have seen people stop to talk to people they know. They offer no help, just stop and say, "hey neighbor." It's rude, and it's dangerous. Just keep going!
4. Road Rage. When a Minnesotan gets in his or her car, the fascade drops and the anger wells up inside. This is why merging is impossible. I belive that if they could, Minnesotans would mount machine guns on their cars and blow each other away.
I'll leave you with this. There's a game that children in Minnesota play. It's called Duck, Duck, Grey Duck. Kids sit in a circle, and one kid goes around the circle saying, "duck," until he or she wants a kid to be it, so he or she says, "grey duck," and has to run around the circle and get that persons space. Sound familiar? That's because everywhere else in the world calls it Duck, Duck, Goose. See the rest of the world figured out that the grey duck is really called a goose.
Before you send me one of those stupid comments like, "if you hate it so much, why don't you just move idiot," realize that I do like it here. It's (somewhat) affordable and Spring and Fall are gorgeous. I do plan on one day moving (my wife reallllly wants to East, and she's a midwesterner), but not for a while.
If you're Minnesotan, and you're offended while reading this, get over it. Pretend you aren't using your powers of Minnesota Nice. You like to pick on Packer fans and people who aren't from here, so get as good as you give.
See you in the snow....


Anonymous said...

maybe the reason people here aren't nice to you is because they don't like you, not becaus they are some form of cracked Minnesotan.

Leab said...

That's a good thought. Wrong, but a good thought...

Anonymous said...

fantastic! I'm from the east coast (have been in mn for 2 years) and you hit the nail on the head. its an odd dichotomy of fondness and nostalgia mixed with rapid urban sprawl, increasingly horrible drivers and gigantic bugs! but somehow i do like it and can't think of another place to go immediately.

Anonymous said...

Face it. You are only here for the welfare. Just like everyone with Indiana and Illinois license plates around the first of the month. Yes, most can't merge. But have you driven on the crosstown lately. I mean come on minnesota update already! eh?

Anonymous said...

East coaster who supports your comments on MN Nice......goes well with the "Midwest Work Ethic" 494 is bumper to bumper at noon on Fridays....their can't be that many sales reps in this state...thanks for the goods work....being from Boston I have a lot of fun mentioning David Ortiz/Randy Moss and Kevin Garnett...and putting the fear of Joe Mauer in a Red Sox uniform in their minds

Boozhoo said...

I would tell you if your shirt looked bad...MN nice isn't all it's talked up to be.