The events of the past few days have me thinking about people. You know them, right? People? The quick reaction, even for me lately, is to say, “People suck.”
I hate that.
It used to make me bristle a bit inside when people would say that. I don’t want to believe that people suck. I want to believe people are good. I also feel, at least today, like that is saying, “I want to believe in Santa Claus.”
I thought about people a lot as we made our way across the country a few weeks ago. We encountered an array of different attitudes, even with limited exposure. The first stop we made was in Winslow and the guy at the counter of the gas station couldn’t have been nicer. Maybe it was my Suns shirt, I don’t know, or Teresa’s green hair, but he was friendly.
When we stopped in New Mexico, people were friendly, too. I spoke to a woman from Georgia who was driving a very interesting van. It had been an old prison transport van and she and her husband and some friends were traveling to Death Valley, of all places, during a heat wave. She was friendly, though, but the people inside the gas station/travel center were not as much.
Texas, well, is Texas. We got weird looks when Teresa and I went to Walmart to pick up a few things I forgot. Amarillo seems like a town that people want to leave, and I don’t blame them. It’s kind of pretty, though, in its way. There were some friendly people at the motel, but they weren’t from Texas.
One thing I did not see nearly as much of, and I mentioned this in a previous blog, is Trump signs. The majority of the ones I have seen are up here in Maine where there are two nearby houses that have Trump 2024 flags flying. More money in Donald’s pocket, right?
In Oklahoma, we ran into a couple of fellow Phoenicians at the gas station we stopped at somewhere outside of Oklahoma City. They were moving to Nashville, which I learned in a brief, awkward conversation. That was our only stop in Oklahoma.
Missouri was not particularly friendly this time around. It probably has to do with the places we stopped. We skipped the Uranus Fudge Factory this time around and, as I mentioned last week, stopped at the world’s largest gift store. Those people were probably so sick of seeing tourists (or, if you are a fan of Fight Club, “single serving friends”) that seeing our road weary faces was not pleasant.
Imagine working at a place like that and having to answer one stupid question after another all day long or hear tired mom’s and dad’s make the same insipid puns about the size of the place or the amount of stuff or whatever. I would definitely lean toward the “People suck” attitude if I had to do that every day. None of our fellow tourists seemed particularly happy, either.
I can understand why, though. Places like that are kind of like casinos. You can see the look on their faces as they walk around. They are counting money. There was a lot of cool stuff in the world’s largest gift shop and people on a trip usually are on a budget. It does not bring out the best in most of us.
I’ve learned to let that stuff roll off me pretty quickly and the older I get, the easier it is. I know what I have, what I can spend, and what I need to be realistic about when I’m in a place that wants to syphon as much cash from me as possible. I think it might be akin to how yogis can bring down their heart rate by breathing rhythmically and focusing their concentration.
I’m kidding, of course, but it’s funny.
We stopped at a Kum-n-Go so Teresa could get a shirt. The people there were not friendly either.
Our next stop was our hotel in Illinois. People were not friendly in Hartford, Illinois. They had the look of “You are not from around here. Do not stay.” That was okay with me, too. I did not want to stay.
People are weird like that, aren’t they? Why do we get so freaked out by someone who is different than us? Why are we not fascinated and more prone to ask friendly questions and welcome someone new? Oh, I know. That takes guts, balls, chutzpah, nerve, whatever you want to call it. It’s taking a risk that this new person might reject you or be aggressive towards you. It’s scary and that’s just dumb.
I generally got good vibes from our brief interactions in Indiana. I remember one dude looking at me a little weird in Trader Joe’s. He kind of looked like he thought maybe I farted or something. Other than that, people there seemed pretty cool.
Ohio was good, as usual. We were with family, of course, but the people at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were very cool. What a fun job that probably is to have. It was a similar vibe in New York, too. I went in a cool little shop to get Hayden a housewarming present, and they couldn’t have been nicer.
I skipped Pennsylvania because there was not human interaction for us there. I was bitten by bugs trying to get Bailey to poop, but that was it.
Vermont, on the other hand, is a strange place. I think I wrote of this before, but they were not kind and always seem like they are trying to hide something. What did you do, Vermont? Tell me.
We didn’t stop in New Hampshire, but I’ve spent enough time there to know that it rules. I like those folks and once they realize you are okay, they are a friendly bunch. They have a little of that Vermont thing going, but it probably comes, like Ellen said, from being small states.
Maine is a mixed bag. They are friendly once you get them talking, but before that, you get that whole “locals only” look. I bet the early 90’s punk scene in Maine was tough going. You probably had to prove you were not a poseur in some pretty difficult ways. I did meet a guy on Friday, though, who saw the CBGB t-shirt I was wearing and said, “Did you ever go there?”
I said, “Yes, once, in 2005.”
“I saw Blondie there in 1978,” was his reply.
People don’t always suck. I would have never guessed he had a life experience like that to look at him, pushing a buffer around the IGA’s floor. There we were, two buffers, talking about CBGB’s for a minute.
I want to talk to that guy some more.
See you tomorrow.
From our walk on Friday. I kind of love that someone leaves these rocks on a bench in the middle of the woods.