Travel with my company has taken me to different places like Ft. Worth, Sunnyvale, Orlando, and even Philly. All those places were interesting to see with lots of cultural and touristy attractions that added charm to an otherwise dull work trip. My current position only provides one location for possible travel, and that’s West Virginia.
WV is definitely very wild, it’s pretty much all mountains. Which make the drive there very beautiful and serene.
But WV is wonderful? maybe?
On one hand, West Virginia is probably the most boring state in the U.S. No one likes having to go there. At work there is always an eye roll preceding the sentence “I have to go to WV.”
It’s impossible to find any non-chain restaurant. And when I googled the closest Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, they were both in PA! I’ll admit that for a few seconds I considered driving to PA to fulfill my craving, but then settled on gross gas station coffee, in order to not risk being really late to work…
However, in my 24 hours there, there was one wonderful thing I noticed about WV: People are SO friendly. Everywhere I went I was surprised that people were greeting me. Smiling, and acting genuinely happy to see me, even though they’ve never met me. As a northerner I was shocked and confused.
When my internet in the hotel wasn’t working and the front desk employee said he’d come up to help me, the northerner in me got scared he was going to kill me. But he didn’t. He adjusted settings on my computer so the internet would work, and then told me to have a lovely evening, and left . Yes, he said lovely.
Then I stopped at the Wal-Mart by my hotel, and the employee at the cash register had a whole friendly conversation with me. I can’t remember the last time a cash register employee even looked at me. At lunch with coworkers, random people at the table next to us at the restaurant, joined our conversation. Like it was normal. I was the only one that thought it was unusual. Am I a mean northerner?
I didn’t really go more south. I travelled only west. But the difference was astounding.
In Maryland, strangers don’t even make eye contact. A person would more likely run you over with their car before they give a pedestrian the right of way. Everyone is focused on purely their own needs, and their own needs usually consist of being in a huge hurry. All the time. And doing whatever it takes, at the sake of everyone else, to make sure they are not slowed down.
In WV, the speed limit is 70. I don’t think I had never seen a 70 sign before. At least not when I’ve been the driver. And the craziest part was, no one was going 70! I think I was the only one. Everyone was going slower. And would stop at on ramps to let the new cars on. Seriously. They are nice on the roads too.
As soon as I cross the border into MD, I see a change. It’s back to no eye contact at the register at a gas station. And being tailgated at all times.
It felt good to be home.
But I couldn’t help to think that in that one aspect, WV really was wonderful. I need to try to be more friendly to strangers in passing. It’s the little things that make a difference. It had a huge effect on me, and I think we could use more of that in the hustle and bustle of the Northeast.
Have you ever noticed such drastic differences in how people treat each other? Is it everywhere in the South or Midwest? Or just small towns?