You think you know what I’m going to be writing about by the title, don’t you? You think this is one of those pieces on how Minnesotans have those phrases like “you betcha” or “uffda.” Or that kids call the candy on sticks suckers, not lollipops. Or that Minnesota kids play “duck, duck, gray duck” rather than “duck, duck, goose.” Or that it’s called pop instead of soda. Or purse instead of pocketbook. Or hotdish instead of casserole. Or binder instead of hair band.
Those things are true and well documented already. No, I’ve got meatier issues to tackle. This concerns an entirely different version of how to speak Minnesotan. This is the East Coast transplant version. And it’s not about the words exactly.
I’ve lived in Minnesota 20 years. My home state is New York and I moved here after living in a total of four other states and one other country. And despite my getting around, it’s only in Minnesota that I’ve been schooled in the art of conversation.
First is the issue of pace. This one is simple. I need to slow down. Just slow down. There’s no rush. I can talk at a normal pace. No one is going anywhere. Just speak like a normal person. It’s not too different t o how I drove when I got here. New York style in a rush. Get ahead. Be in front. Go, go, go. And yes, I’m still practicing this, so bear with me.
Second is the issue of flow. This is the biggie. To my amazement, I learned upon moving to Minnesota that it’s polite to let the other person completely finish their sentence – or their entire paragraph – before I talk. Wait for them to actually finish, not just for them to take a breath. I don’t think you can grasp how unnatural and difficult that is for some of us to do. It’s completely alien.
In my perspective, a good conversation has lots of interruptions – me-you-me-you-me-you. We gobble up the end of the other person’s sentences with exciting ideas of our own. It’s intense and fast. It doesn’t feel disruptive; it is fast-paced and fabulous. But I’ve been learning. To. Slow. The. Heck. Down. Even if I know what you’re going to say, I’ll let you say it. Even if I’ve heard it before, I’ll let you finish. Even if I think I’ll forget my own thought, I’ll wait. And even if you’re boring me beyond belief, I will let you get to the final period.
This does not come easy. It’s not that I’m feeling aggressive, it’s not that I’m being overbearing, it’s not that I think what I have to say is more important – it’s just the flow I’m used to. This is a genuine work in progress for me.
And finally is the issue of talking while eating. Your reaction is probably, “AGH!” I know, I have been told. I know you might find this horrible, nasty, impossible, but yes, I talk with my mouth full sometimes. Why? Because I’m in such a rush to talk! It’s inevitable. I don’t even notice. I have been repeatedly told that it’s rude. I didn’t even know I was doing it. As far as I was concerned, I was engaged and eager, happy and conversational. I suppose I figured that as long as the food stayed in my mouth, I was OK.
Apparently not, dontcha know.
Jody Russell is an Eden Prairie web designer, photographer and writer. Her columns appear regularly in the Eden Prairie News.