We all do it. We stereotype regions of our country and even the world. For example, New Yorkers are harsh and impolite (not true, actually, my experience of living in the city could not have been more enjoyable); Southerners are more laid-back; and Midwesterners, well, we're all "nice." Especially we Minnesotans. We're not only "nice," we're "Minnesota nice," and that takes the adjective to a whole new level. We bend over backwards for people. We remember the appropriate etiquette. And of course, we're just generally kind and friendly. Give or take, of course.
Well Minnesotans... we've met our match. As regular readers of my blog know - last week, my husband, Gary, my baby, Grace, and I traveled to London. The fact Gary and I once again braved a Trans-Atlantic flight with a 10-month-old is one thing. (She did well, actually, and presumably did not dissuade our fellow passengers from ever flying again). But our time there? Well, to borrow a very British word - it was "lovely." And the Brits themselves played no small part in that loveliness... which is why there's a new contest for that "nice" title. It's also why any previous stereotype of the Brits - you know, the one portraying them as cold, formal and dreary - should perhaps fall by the international wayside.
Get this: every time - and I mean, every time - we ventured into the bowels of the London subway with suitcases, baby and stroller in tow, person after person offered their assistance. It was a perfect portrayal of politeness, actually. One man would catch a glimpse of us and then side-step the crowds to wait and ask if we needed his help. Another man would run to catch up with us at the escalator - where we were beginning our clumsy ascent with bags and baby - and ask if we, too, needed his help. And when Gary's arms were full of a sleeping Grace, and I alone was attempting to climb the stairs with a heavy stroller - again, another gentleman approached.
Now, the jaded among you could argue that these kind British souls were simply preying on a trio who were so obviously tourists. I'd argue right back that was not the case. Not only were these people polite and earnest in their offers, we absolutely still had our purses in wallets intact and in our possession after the exchange.
So there you go... I'd like to think Minnesotans would show the same kindness to our visitors... and probably we would. But in the meantime, score one for the Brits in the contest for the nicest of the "nice." And yes, let's let that "dreary" British stereotype go.
As for the trip more generally, we really did have a wonderful time. Grace and I loved meeting Gary's aunt, a spry and strong-willed 89-year-old. As for playing the tourist, I studied in England in college and so was familiar with many of the sites. But it's been so many years... and I found myself taking it all in again with a fresh new perspective. Not to mention, the baby in our arms helped us see everything in a whole new light. Admittedly, Gracie slept through some of the pivotal picture moments - say, for example, when she was a slumbering heap in front of Buckingham Palace. But she seemed to savor every social opportunity... In fact, it seems Ms. Gracie does not abide by the proper subway rules - you know, the ones that dictate you keep your hands to yourself and not stare at people. Grace followed a different set of rules, one that allowed her to immediately reach out to the nearest person and grab his or her briefcase or purse. And if someone wasn't within reaching range... well, she'd stare at a nearby person incessantly... patiently... until that person finally gave up and met her gaze. They'd be rewarded with a goofy, four-tooth grin. It was quite adorable to watch, actually. And her extroverted parents couldn't be more pleased with their daughter... clearly developing into something of a social butterfly.
One more thought before I sign off - remember all those times I pleaded that we stop and enjoy the beauty of this season? Well, I'm no longer pleading. In fact, I'm done. I'm done with the winter, done with the cold, done with the snow. I can continue my optimism for only so long... and quite frankly, six months of winter is just pushing it for me. And so I write, please - please - let the colors of spring emerge. Let the sun shine warmly and the snow just melt away. Let the spring dance begin.
Finally, thanks to those who weighed in on the ol' blog title. Due to your overwhelming support for the title - in both comments and e-mails - I've decided to outright ignore my husband's criticism and just go with it. So from now on, "Karla's Korner" it is...
Until next time, please take care. To those in the flood-prone areas, know that our thoughts and prayers are with you. And in the words of Mike Wallace, "do well, and do good."