I’ve lived everywhere from San Francisco to Birmingham, and one of the lessons I’ve learned is that there is a certain class of people who live on both coasts who harbor a not-so-secret loathing of the Midwest. These people snark about the middle of the country in the same way serious music fans complain about Nickelback: they can’t believe that anyone with the slightest bit of sophistication or intelligence would choose to live that way.
That attitude is in full display in the Atlantic.com article “Midnight At The Mall Of America,” which chronicles Lois Farrow Parshley’s Thanksgiving trip to Minnesota:
This is how I knew I was back in the Heartland, where grocery baggers are still judged on their “speed, distribution of weight, and proper bagging style,” where strawberry Jello and Cool Whip is still served as a traditional dessert, and where much nasally lilting small talk is currently being devoted to the unseasonably warm weather. As a transplant, it has always seemed mildly ironic to spend Thanksgiving, the archetypical American holiday, in the place The Great Gatsby’s Nick called “the warm center of the world” — the Mid-West.
So apparently in other parts of the country, grocery baggers are content to throw the bags of onions on top of the potato chips and the small talk is devoted to dissecting long-term economic trends and the advantages of the hydrogen-based fuel system over flex fuel engines. You’ll also notice the mention of “The Great Gatsby,” a reference that sounds literary but also refers to the Midwest of 1922. So while it is a cool-sounding literary reference, it applies to today’s Minnesota in roughly the same way that adding a quote about the Model T automobile would apply in a profile of modern-day Detroit.
Then Parshley is off to MOA’s Black Friday opening at midnight, where amazingly, teens are acting bored and cliquish. Unlike, say the teens in Boston or New York where they leisurely shop while discussing how they can help improve the social lives of their fellow students.
At midnight, I watched H&M open. Four mall security cops waited in front of the metal grill while harried employees ran around with hangers, carrying checklists and sale placards. A cop’s plea to “Go in slow” prompted immediate, ribald laughter, and when the doors opened, a horde crushed through. I was reminded of another noteworthy annual event in the Driftless area — the rising of the fishflies, a kind of mayfly that streams into the sky by the millions to mate. By 12:04, the store was over-run, clothes ripped off hangers and strewn over the floor.
There are a number of references to wildlife and nature in this piece. Apparently as a way of comparing the strange rituals of Midwest residents to the abundant nature just a few minutes drive away from the Twin Cities. See? These folks are endangered and clueless. Just like the the Iowa Pleistocene Snail!
I could continue fisking this piece paragraph by paragraph, but to what point? I’m sure the author meant well, but these “look how strange those folks on the middle of the country are” articles are loathsome. In the same way that not all bankers are evil or all coaches pedophiles, not everyone in the Midwest is some lost buffoon who isn’t lucky enough to live in a place with sophistication or tastes.
And one last thing. The Target Center is not the same building as Target Headquarters or even your local Super Target:
Employees collected 190,000 names on a petition urging a nearby Target Center to abandon its midnight opening, delivering it to Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis on Thursday to no avail.
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