When people hear that you’re from the Midwest, they tend to react in one of two ways:
1. They enthusiastically exclaim “ME TOO!” even though it turns out they’re from some teeny tiny town you’ve never heard of or they claim to be from the exact same city, except they actually grew up in some far-flung exurb where they didn’t see a black person in real life until they turned 13.
2. They express a “you poor thing!” look, tilt their head towards you, and say “It must be very different here, hm?” as though you’re standing in front of them with a piece of hay sticking out of your mouth.
And not to gloss over it, either, because you do notice differences between the Midwest of your upbringing and wherever it is you’ve chosen to go since then. They’re not bizarrely visceral differences (“lookit that, Maxine, a gasoline-powered automotive machine!”), but they’re there just the same. Probably the biggest difference – or the one that makes the biggest difference to me – is the concept of responsibility. In the Midwest, responsibility is about showing up, being on time, doing what you said you were going to do, and generally being an upstanding person that someone else can count on. And it’s such an ingrained way of life that the word “irresponsible” is hurled at someone with the same level of invective as “piece of shit” might be.
As someone who was raised in the Midwest and has since lived on both coasts, I’ve noticed that the largest responsibility gap lies between the Midwest and the West Coast. The Midwest’s sense of responsibility is described above. The West Coast sense of responsibility doesn’t really exist. Not in any blatantly obvious form, anyway.
The thing is, I get really pissed off whenever I remember that I live in a city of flakes. I live in a city where no one is on time for anything, no one listens to you the first four times you say something, people think a shrug or “huh?” is an acceptable way to respond to a question, and nobody seems to understand that other people have plans, too, and no they can’t rearrange them because you were the one who fucked up in the first place.
Of course this is related to a specific incident, but not really. I mean, these incidents happen all the time, but this latest one had me fuming the entire way home because WHAT IS WITH THIS CITY AND THE FUCKING SIMPLETONS WHO LIVE HERE. I’ve made two attempts to get a tattoo from one person so far; the first time he claimed he double-booked – he was the one who wrote the appointment time on a card and physically placed it in my hand, by the way – and had to reschedule a week later, the second time (today) he gave me a drawing that was 95% not what I’d described at all. And I know how to describe tattoos. I’m specific. I know what I want. I even tell a person where they can take liberties and where they can’t, and when I described my idea to this artist the first time and he parroted back what I wanted and skipped a key component, I replied with “No, I said this,” repeated myself, and continued on. And it still wasn’t right, which means that’s two appointments – two weekend days where I declined to participate in other things – that I’ve wasted because this person who owns a fucking business can’t get his shit together or fucking listen to what I’m saying.
I just don’t understand why this is so hard. Now, I’m pretty heavily tattooed, I’ve been around. I know that the tattoo industry doesn’t hold the same standards of professionalism as mine, or that their standards are just defined differently, but, I mean, come on. This is my time. It was going to be my money until I determined that he’d never fucking get it right and I walked out of the shop today. It’s about a basic level of responsibility that so many people here just don’t seem to grasp. And every time I hear the beginning of one of their bullshit apologies “sorry I didn’t do this, but here’s my excuse…” I want to slap the words back into their mouths. Just don’t. Don’t, okay? Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it, don’t make an excuse for yourself like I care about or even believe it, and don’t fucking have to apologize in the first place because you’re such a lazy asshole.
So now I get to find another shop in Seattle or just fucking wait until I can get back to St. Louis every couple of years and get used to spending the flight home with a nagging itchy pain somewhere on my body because those are apparently the only people I can trust to get shit done anymore.
Hey, Seattle, get your fucking shit together, please?