Your hometown’s not that special

 Recently, there have been a lot of heavy-hitting opinions here on this page about important, culture-defining topics. Those pieces are great and exactly what this page should be for, but I’ve noticed a stark lack of another important type of piece: petty opinions. We’ve strayed too far from the world of opinions that don’t ultimately matter that much, so I’ve come to save this page with the pettiest opinion of them all: your hometown is not as unique as you think it is.

I first noticed the fetishization of hometowns, home states and people’s origins in general during Manresa. This happened when I started hearing everyone talk about how their states have “the worst drivers.” Someone would mention annoying Cincinnati drivers and someone would have to chime in “oh you should see the drivers back in Delaware, they’re the worst!”

Okay, first of all, Kevin, I have no interest in seeing anything Delaware-related. Second, I doubt you have any statistical evidence to back up that claim. If you even tried to do some base-line research you’d find that the website SmartAsset conducted a study that concluded Mississippi is the state with the worst drivers.

But wait a second, I just found a study from QuoteWizard that says Alaska has the worst? Hold on, I also just found one from Insurance Business America that says Wyoming is the worst!? What’s going on here?

Maybe the problem is the sample. All three studies draw from different sources that collect different driver’s data. Or maybe, just maybe, something as general as “the state with the worst drivers” is not a statistic that can be accurately assessed. Maybe if you could study every single driver in America in-depth you could make an accurate assessment, but that would be painfully time-consuming.

So if it’s not possible to say with certainty which state has the worst drivers, why do so many people insist that it’s theirs? My guess would be that everyone is desperately trying to make their home seem unique. I understand the intention, I mean I doubt there are any actual cool facts about the state of Delaware, but still, you could always just try to not take pride in your place of origin. Why not take pride in our similarities, rather than our differences?

Take for example the “midwestern goodbye.” It’s defined in a recent viral tweet as “saying goodbye and standing around talking for another half hour while slowly inching your way to the door.” I’ve had this happen to me plenty of times and it always ends with someone saying, “Wow, I said I’d leave a half hour ago and here we are!” to which someone responds, “The classic midwestern goodbye!”

But I also have a friend who insists that this practice is referred to as “the Italian goodbye.” A quick Urban Dictionary search finds that the two terms do indeed share the same definition. Are Midwesterners and Italians more closely related than we thought? Or maybe, just maybe, do people just enjoy talking to their friends?

It makes sense that when you’re hanging out with someone you like, you would get caught up in a conversation before you leave. You’re hanging out in the first place, so obviously you enjoy their company. I’m sure this situation can be found in any culture; I bet there are some friends in Uganda doing “the midwestern goodbye” right now, but they certainly aren’t calling it that.

So why even give it a localized name? Midwesterners didn’t invent this practice, nor did Italians. This is clearly just another case of a group of people trying to get their place of origin to look more unique, like “oooh look at us, we’re so unique we have a goodbye named after us!”

But by making these assertions that your community has some claim to the title of “longest goodbyes” or even “worst drivers” you are ignoring the shared humanity these experiences represent.

Doesn’t it show the beauty of human socialization that we often can’t even bring ourselves to leave one another? Or isn’t it just plain comical that no matter where you go you’ll always find terrible drivers?

Humans are great, and I think we can lose sight of that greatness by pretending that only some of us do this or some of us do that. We’re all on the same team here, and we should be celebrating our similarities rather than trying to create differences.

Just remember that you don’t need to hyperbolize to appear as unique; you’re human, so you’re already unique. Even if you were born in Delaware.