Opinion

What I've learned about the Iowa way

Well, you incredible newspaper readers, you’ve put up with me for an entire year and for that I am so grateful. To be honest, I had never heard of Washington or Mt. Pleasant before moving here and certainly did not expect the cultural education and fascinating stories I would get to hear and tell.

Switching from city life to small town was a bigger difference than I ever thought. Now I’m not from an incredibly large town, but respectively, my hometown is about 15 times larger than Washington in terms of population sizes.

Moving here taught me a lot of things, and terminology, I’d never known I had to learn.

This whole “in-town” business

Where I come from, everything is in-town. You just live in the town and you go where you need to go and that’s it. Gravel roads are just a myth like the Loch Ness monster or something. Maybe it takes you 15 minutes to get across town, but what do you need to go across town for? We have seven of everything: Whole Foods, Starbucks, CVS.

Yes, of course, there are smaller cities surrounding the area, but they are all surrounded by the bigger cities so even if you do live in a “rural” area, it only takes three minutes to get anywhere because there are three different bridges to get you from one side of the river to the other.

You have your own language

I was eating with a group of friends one time and someone ordered “a chicken shindig.” Apparently that’s Iowa code for a grilled chicken sandwich with pub fries. Nobody told me. I was absolutely perplexed about what this guy was ordering when the waiters just looked at me and said, “It’s OK. I speak Iowa.” That’s when I found out that I do not, in fact, speak Iowa.

Directions, also, are spoken in a foreign language of “it’s down there by the Jones’ house” instead of “it’s on the corner of Fourth and Fifth.” How do you guys know where everyone lives, and I do mean everyone. Whatever happened to giving an address, putting it into Google maps then freaking out when it says you’re in the middle of nowhere and it can’t calculate how to help you get to the destination? It’s worked for me so far.

The roads here don’t swallow your car

Now because I’m from Illinois I can say this with confidence: Illinois is the proverbial pothole of the United States and you cannot change my mind. The whole state is completely out of control. That being said, their roads are more potholes than they are roads. For reference, there’s a two-bed, one-bath pothole in front of my parents’ house if anyone is looking.

I’ve heard some complaints about Iowa roads and what I have to say is this: You have no idea how good you’ve got it. You can tell immediately when you cross the border into Iowa that people care about their surroundings. This year I saw workers out filling potholes which I have never seen in my over 20 years of residency in Illinois.

Being kind to your neighbors

I came home after work one day and my neighbor was raking my leaves. Now where I come from, that’s a passive aggressive move that means “your lawn looks ridiculous and you’re bringing down neighborhood morale.”

Here, my guy Steve was just helping me out because I have a big yard and no time to rake. I got my rake out and we worked together for a little bit when he told me that being nice to the neighbors was good luck. Huh. That explains a few things.

People care about the community

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed about the small-town community is how much people care. Everybody is in each other’s business, but for the most part, it is not in a malicious way. People care when things close and they show up to legislative briefings and they care when a new ordinance is being introduced and they show up at meetings.

There are teachers trying to introduce new ideas to the classroom and the Extension office is incredibly active in the schools as well. It’s refreshing to see so many people care about a common goal and get involved in a way that invokes the positive changes they want to see.

There is so much to be learned from a place one has never heard of before. Who knew all of this was hiding in southeast Iowa and how lucky am I to get to experience it, write about it and live in the midst of it.