Suggested Listening: “Sleepwalk” by Santo & Johnny
Today, I felt like Miranda, aka “The Dragon Lady” from The Devil Wears Prada. I bounded into the office, dressed for success, to find that the internet was down. Yet again. Yesterday, it was the phones. That tech problem solved in minutes, I checked voicemail before the phones started ringing off the hook. Irate, shall we say “customers” were furious that their sidewalks and driveways had not been shoveled. Two people slipped on concrete steps.
My first thought? Lawsuit.
We may not have experienced a blizzard here in Iowa yesterday, because six inches of snow is just, well, snow, but “Honestly!” I started dialing. “You people have had hours and hours to prepare” I scolded. The snow was no surprise. Get it together people. That was my take charge Miranda moment, which felt damned good.
My Miranda Priestly analogy was also my kvetch session to the mail lady several hours later who smiled broadly and exclaimed, “That’s right! You’re from Chicago. You people are so bad ass.”
I had to laugh because her commentary was so genuine. But my day was insane, and I wasn’t about to let anyone, phone call, email, or customer slip through the Iowa cracks of “not today.” I’m paid to write, but I’m also paid to solve problems or “make it happen.” I’ve done that ever since I can remember. Stress will do that to you.
“And stress can kill,” I remembered when a coworker called out of the blue to take my Starbucks order — an errand exclusive to me and out of her way. That was Iowa Nice. And today I was reminded of why I moved here in the first place.
Yeah, Chicagoans are bad ass, braving subzero temperatures and winds while standing on El platforms; the same platforms I feature in my second novel. But that’s another 50,000 or so words. I miss the great lake, the seagulls, the cardinals, and the food. I miss the Chicago I remember from my youth and two decades ago. What I miss is the glory days of Chicago before things took a turn for the worse.
I don’t miss the bureaucracy. I don’t miss the exorbitant tax rates (read: robbery) or the high cost of living that seemed to rise by the day. And the last thing I miss is the lack of opportunity and camaraderie as most entrepreneurs and creatives have long-since fled the state. I should have followed twenty years ago but didn’t have the chance. It is what it is, and, in retrospect, I wrote two books at long last.
What I miss least about the place was the never-ending battle to keep up with Joneses and cannot stress enough how exhausting that paradigm was. The local Iowans, I’m learning, take things in stride. If the phone doesn’t get answered, we’ll call them back. If it was a true emergency, someone would call 911 even though there are exceptions to what would seem like common sense. Blame the Fentanyl.
Few people here bother dressing for success. I have yet to find a dry cleaners whereas in Chicago, there was one on every corner.
The pace here is farm: Tending the fields, farmers dependent on the weather for their livelihoods, and waiting for the nation’s food supply to grow.
“A fresh perspective,” I thought while sipping my coffee, “is required.”
Hindsight being 20/20, I probably confused the local florist I wrote about yesterday. I couldn’t find the flowers in the flower shop upon entering. All I wanted was three fresh hydrangeas to liven up a still-unpainted apartment. People here don’t surround themselves with flowers or boxwood-trimmed cutting gardens. She assumed I wanted a designed bouquet to gift to someone.
The gift was to myself for surviving.
So while Iowa Nice is a reality and one I described in a yesterday’s musing, the flip side of Iowa Nice is the rationale that struck me when I first arrived. The locals are not rushed. They tend to be more accurate.
Note to Self: Slow it down a notch, Eva. You’re not getting fired or scolded — viciously — for wearing the wrong color slacks or the wrong pair of designer heels. Those days, thankfully, are over.
I’m close to those I love dear now even though many friends took the expat route. I am away from the violence and can farm some stories. Perhaps that man at Starbucks wearing the flannel is frustrated by those that agree with everything he says. Perhaps he’s bored and that boredom is the tragedy I see in his eyes. Maybe what he needs is a conversation.
Or maybe not. Perhaps some time next week, when the snow clears and I’m not pressed for time, I’ll meander over to his table and ask.
As I end this musing, it’s snowing and another ten inches are expected. My youngest daughter and I bought and cleared the grocery store shelves of all the rye flour and will bake our own loaves for fun and profit.