Monday, June 27, 2011

States of mind

So, are New Yorkers pushy, Mid-Westerners polite and clean, New Englanders laconic and stand-offish?  And are the folks in New Jersey actually "angry orange people"?   And what do we Californians (at least 3/5's of my current travelling party) do with the stereotype of the air-headed, arrogant, road-hogging Californian?

I think I might be getting an inkling of where some of the stereotypes come from, as we glimpse some states only on their highways and at their rest-stops.

On an uncrowded stretch of I-40 in Arkansas, my kids were giggling about a bumper sticker they'd seen that said, "Crawl faster, I hear banjos" and I was trying to debunk the stereotype of the hostile, xenophobic residents of the "Natural State" as Arkansas's state motto goes.

And then the gentleman in the SUV passed me on the right side, going about 90, holding out that gesture, as he passed;  that hand-gesture that just MIGHT indicate that he was a proctologist, offering free exams.   (I am being charitable after all.  And maybe he was a proctologist who worked for a large HMO which required him to be moving very quickly--90mph in a 65mph zone-- while offering that exam. )  Shortly after that, we passed a road sign bearing the name of a local point of interest:  "Toad Suck Park".  Was it my California license plate that prompted our fellow motorist's gesture, or  is geography destiny?

Or how about this bit of local psychology by roadsign?  On our way through the Arizona high desert, on a stretch of I-40 that was once the famous Route 66, we passed a sign announcing the exit for "Badwater" and the sign beneath it said, "No Services".   But the very next sign we passed announced "Little Lithodendron Wash".   How very modest of the folks in Badwater to assure us that there were no services there, when all along they had their very own place for washing little lithodendrons  !   I'm not sure what a lithodendron is, or how dirty they get, or whether big lithodendrons require a different kind of facility for their maintenance than little lithodendrons, but all the same, it was a fascinating peek into the ethos of the unassuming desert dwellers.

Tomorrow, we'll be spending some time at Petrified Forest National Monument, if we can keep ourselves out of another feature of the high desert landscape: the Ticky Tacky TeePee Tourist Trappee.

Can you tell I've been driving some LONG hours lately?

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