Monday, September 10, 2007

USA's most Canadian State (My Sacred Life, day 17)

During our recent two-day voyage across middle America, we learned lots of things. Many are really just anecdotal evidence of a trend we hear about from other people, but life is all about living the anecdotes, so why not go with that evidence? I will today.

We discovered that truckers are generally less courteous than six years ago when we made the same trip. Many times, a trucker would dart into the left lane in front of us at the last possible instant as we were about to pass, scaring Julia half to death and giving me an adrenaline dump which made three cups of strong coffee seem like nothing. Besides, the entire concept of "darting" when applied to a vehicle weighing 20 or 30 tons and handling like an unhappy rhinoceros with a rider aboard is absurd from the start. We were never seriously close to an accident, but a number of times I had to get on the brake and mean it.

Passenger-car drivers seemed to us to be less willing to go by the old rule of, "if you aren't passing anyone, stay to the right." This is not a huge problem, but when someone is cruising along in the left lane and not paying attention, they can cause a line of cars to go around them on the right. This is inherently a bad plan, but the inattentive driver brings it on.

We were seeing these actions all day the first day of the trip.

Then came Iowa.

Everyone on the road seemed to be in less of a hurry, even the truckers becoming easier to share the road with. Heck, the drivers we were crossing Iowa with were often not from Iowa, yet they fell under the influence of this gentle state and its residents.

The people we spoke to were all friendly without getting too familiar--I do my best to be pleasant to strangers, but I am put off when they assume the right to call me by my first name based upon what they see on my credit card...a name I don't go by--and we recovered from a breakdown with the help of the folks in Newton, Iowa. You can't beat friendly and competent. As we got back on the road, I cogitated on a theory I later discussed with Julia.

Iowa is the little Canada in the middle of the United States! Iowa's people are the most Canadian people I know, apart from the folks from Canada. Several of my friends are from the part of North America north of the 49th parallel, and I find them to be both nice and fun. This is a tough combination to find, as many fun people I know are grouchy as all get out. Likewise, some of the nice people I know are excruciatingly boring to be around. My Canadian friends are self-deprecating to a fault, too. How can you dislike someone who is convinced it is his shortcoming which caused whatever the problem of the moment is? We Americans take advantage of people like that all the time. I do my best to avoid such least some of the time. There is such a thing as being too American!

While it is silly and even dangerous to make such generalizations as I do about both Canadians and Iowans, I'm not too worried in this case: if you are referring to someone as being fun to be around and a really nice person, most will decide not to take offense.

So, while we are not yet prepared to explain why this state so close to the geographic center of the United States managed to have a psychological/behavioral connection with Canada's people, we will continue to enjoy it. Our stopping-over point on the way back home to Denver will again be in scenic Atlantic, Iowa. We wondered at the name of the town until it rained three inches (no exaggeration there: we saw the report the next day) Thursday night while we were stopped at our hotel. Maybe the whole place is underwater sometimes, I don't know. That's a topic for another time.

Roly update: the boy is just fine!


Jane said...

Sounds like a wonderful time! I've never been to Iowa, but sure would like to one day.

This summer as we headed to New Hampshire, my son and daughter wanted to get the truck drivers to honk by making those arm motions to the drivers. When I was little, truck drivers always honked. I noticed this year, the drivers hardly wanted to make the contact. As Bob Dylan said it best, The times, they are a changing....

Kate I said...

As a purebred Canadian, I'm very flattered by your kind reflections on our collective personality. Yes, it's true, we apologise for everything and my American son-in-law found it most disconcerting when he first moved here...but he loves it too!
Your description of road travel in the US has me feeling a little aprehensive though. We're driving to Colorado at the end of the month and although we've driven the freeways of LA, we're hoping this won't be a white knuckle trip!

Julie said...

My dad's relatives are mostly in southern Mn and Iowa, so I am sitting here laughing as I read this. It is so true, such a great way of putting it. Midwesterners and Canadians are my favorite peeps.

Hamguin said...

Kate--no worries! Just get in the right lane and turn on the cruise control. We brought most of the driving issues on ourselves by deciding to go 1300 miles in two days.

If you guys will be anywhere near Denver, drop me a line! We could meet for a cup of coffee.

Kikipotamus said...

I have never been to Iowa. The people sound delightful.