Metro Mindset

The state legislature is grinding along.  There is little cooperative effort this session.  Democrats and Republicans agree on little, fiddling while Rome burns.  What is apparent however, is the way rural folks and city dwellers view everyday life.

I’ve lived both the rural and big city scene in the last 50 years.  There are differences in perception when it comes to what is needed, what is convenient and what doesn’t count.

These differences in perception have to do first of all with where you live.  “Bemidji? Could you spell that?”  As I talk to some wet behind the ears sales clerk in Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis.  “B-E-M-I-D-J-I.  Where is that?” she says in her Starbuck’s cheery voice as she’s scanning my Master Card. “In Northern Minnesota?” I say. “Oh, near Brainerd?” she says. “No.” I say, “Closer to Mizpah.” A blank stare – the electronic surveillance device says I’m not a dead beat – I sign my name and split.

Then there’s the professional meeting that gets started late because someone didn’t get there on time.  You drove 4 1/2 hours through 4 inches of snow and slush and made it and they live in New Brighton and have a hard time getting to the Midway area of St. Paul.  I have a friend who is a middle school principal in Elk River.  He operates on the 45 minute principle – any trip in the metro area takes 45 minutes, no matter where you’re going.  Maybe my colleague didn’t take that into consideration.

The Minnesota experience of “going to the lake” strikes me as representing a different view also.  Recently I attended a conference in Minneapolis later in the week.  Friday night I had to come back to Bemidji.  Grid-lock, starting about Elk River to Motley.  Any size vehicle you could imagine was represented in the lines stretching out before me.  Varying rates of speed on the interstate were in evidence also as well as different degrees of stress tolerance.  If it’s so great in the metro area, why does everyone try to leave on the weekend?

Over the years I’ve talked to some of my friends in the Twin Cities about rural living.  Small town politics they say appears to be occasionally mean spirited and personal.  That it is, but politics and power based on personal relationships seems to me a much more benign way of doing business than the nodding of heads of the big city councilmen who say, “I hear what  you are saying.” and then do what they want anyway.  It rarely works that way in small towns, too much is intertwined.  Bad blood created in one venue is too easily carried over into the success or failure of a business transaction or an interaction in a school or church meeting.  People’s memories for good or bad are a lot longer in rural America.

It’s often said that money flows to where the most people are.  In the play of power, politics and cold hard cash, that’s understandable.  But the very things that are everyday events for us are greatly desired by city folks.

Recently I took a break from work and in between clients was staring out the window toward the lake a block away.  Suddenly a couple ducks took flight and a second later a bald eagle did a turning dive to the lake.  Think I’d see that out of an office window  in downtown Minneapolis?

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