January 29, 2005
Minnesota culture is really interesting. It's adorable now, but on some level I'm glad I didn't grow up here. One thing that struck me about it last night is the fact that people subtly and in friendly ways reinforce their value of conformity.
I love ice skating, and I've never lived in a place where it is so accessible. Now that I own a pair of skates and live a block from an outdoor rink (that serves as a baseball field when temperatures rise), I go all the time, anytime the urge strikes. Last night, I particularly felt like skating from about 1:30 to 3:30am.
First, I just have to say it was a blast. I had the rink all to myself, plus they must have zambonied it at the end of the day because it was smooth as glass. It wasn't too cold out either—I even took off my jacket, hat, and gloves at one point because I was sweating.
The really interesting thing, though, was that person after person after person stopped whatever they were doing to ask me what on earth I was doing skating at x o'clock in the morning.
Usually my response was that it was the perfect time to skate—I had the rink all to myself! My inquisitors ranged from a couple girls who lived nearby who were drinking and just playing on the ice in their shoes, to a black lady driving by who actually stopped her car, opened her door, and screamed at me from the street. There were also people walking their dogs, and various official-looking cars that slowed, stopped, stayed until they were satisfied I was not a danger to myself of anyone else, then drove on. Cab drivers too: one stopped just to watch, another actually asked what I was doing, and if I'd teach him to skate.
Everyone was friendly, though. I suppose there's a sociological niche for outsiders in Minnesota, too, and perhaps if I'd grown up here, that's what I'd be. People made it very clear that I was doing something out of the ordinary, but once I exhibited confidence in my choice of activity, they laughed and joked and shook their heads, wondering what the world was coming to.
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