[Editor’s Note: To celebrate HoboTrashcan’s five-year anniversary, we are bringing back five defunct site features for one week only. Check back every day this week to be overwhelmed with nostalgia.]
This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … local pride.
An F-4 tornado takes out two Oklahoma towns. (You’d think by now that Tornado Alley, when it comes to home construction, might finally consider the brick.) A category four hurricane obliterates a few hundred beachfront houses. (Always shocking when beachfront property loses another battle with nature.) Another one of those mid-western rivers you learned about in sixth grade floods and displaces a few thousand Iowans. (Who will, once the waters recede, move back into those same flood-prone areas to await the next flood.)
After each of these tragedies, one of the haggard but resilient locals will be seen on TV telling a network reporter how the people from [fill in any area of the country] are special because of the way they help, give to and look out for their neighbors. But like Henry Ford’s take on history, all that geo-specific specialness is bunk.
Before I go off on these self-congratulatory geo-snobs, allow me to dispel any accusations about me being a completely heartless bastard who doesn’t care about people whose lives have been rocked by nature, terror or corporate incompetence. The tiny portion of my heart that is not yet cold and dead does have sympathy for those people whose lives have been rocked and turned on end. Even I, a crusty curmudgeon numbed by cynicism and scotch, can’t imagine the trauma these people experience. Your house is there, then it’s not. Your family of five becomes a family of three in an instant. The town you loved yesterday no longer exists today. That’s a pain most of us will never know.
What gives me a case of severe eye-rolling is how every area of the country likes to think that, when hard times hit, they possess some special quality that allows them to handle adversity better than people from twelve states away. Sorry, all you sturdy New Englanders and hearty mid-westerners and good ol’ boy southerners. You’re just like the rest of us. You’re not tougher, you’re not more generous and you’re not more neighborly than anyone else. People are people, period. Mostly asshole-ish, sure, but mostly stepping up and doing right by others when bad times come.
Consider the absurdity of some of the self-congratulatory comments I’ve heard or read.
“New Englanders know the value of a hard day’s work.” Right. And the West Virginia coal miner doesn’t, nor does the Long Beach longshoreman or the Oregon lumberjack. That 40-ish mother of three who just spent 11 hours running Grand Slam breakfast plates around the east Baltimore Denny’s all night? Lazy mid-Atlantic bitch. Ever shake hands with a man whose palm feels like burlap? It didn’t get that way by goldbricking it through easy five-hour days. I’ve yet to see a UPS or FedEx driver make a delivery without pretty much running from the truck to the door and back to the truck. But those New Englanders, boy, they are the special lot who really know about hard work. It’s a wonder anything gets done south of New Hampshire.
“Midwesterners can always be counted on to help their own in a situation like this.” Right. I never saw or read any stories of heroic selflessness coming out of post-Katrina New Orleans. When the annual wildfires ravage southern California, why, it’s every selfish bitch for himself, if I remember Nightline correctly. I’m still waiting to see some stirring video of panicked New Yorkers helping unknown fellow pedestrians escape the debris of the fallen towers. Nope, didn’t see any video like that, because it wasn’t the Great Midwest.
“Thing is, people need to know that Jersey girls don’t take no shit.” Right. We all know you can walk to up a girl from the other 49 states, call her a skanky, cum-guzzling whore and she’ll just hang her head in tacit agreement. If you, dear reader, are not at this time living in New Jersey (congratulations, by the way), think about five random females you know well. How many of them just passively “take shit”? Exactly.
“Long Island girls really know how to party.” Right. I’ve never heard a shrill Pittsburgh girl piss-drunk on shots screaming for someone to play some “fucking Skynyrd on the goddamn jukebox!” No girls ever drink half a fifth of tequila and then get video-ed pulling a fraternity train in Arizona. Hell, they certainly don’t have male strip clubs in Nashville where Tina and her 12 sloshed girlfriends can yell “Whoooo!” all night while their friends get sweaty stripper crotch jammed into their too-heavily-made-up faces. (Of course, New Jersey girls would never stand for that shit.)
“We’re from Chicago. We like to eat!” Right. That might be my favorite. In America, Land of Lardass, only Chicagoans really like to eat. Those midnight south Philly slobs who inhale cheesesteaks like Paris Hilton inhales cocks? Prim pikers in the eating department. There’s an Old Country buffet in every town in America filled with 300-pound behemoths currently on their fourth heaping plate of gravy-covered goodness. You ever watch that Guy Fieri show – Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives – where he travels all over the U.S. finding restaurants that specialize in overstuffed, overtopped and over-crammed foods? They ain’t all in Chicago, I can tell you that. Have you ever looked at the people in a Walmart? Trust me, my Big Shouldered Brethren, people all over this broad beacon of obesity love to eat.
“Family is important to us here in Tennessee.” Right. In Cleveland, if a relative needs a kidney, he’s shit out of luck with the cousins. In Seattle, mothers are always selling their babies for triple mocha latte money. And isn’t the Southwest famous for euthenizing elderly relatives once every third fart becomes a shit-ccident?
Note to all Americans who think your geographical zone makes you special: We’re all pretty much the same. Most of us are selfish pricks who like to keep to ourselves, interacting with a few close friends and relatives. We don’t really care to know our neighbors. We tolerate our coworkers and they tolerate us because we all like getting paid. When the shit turns bad, most of us jump to help out our fellow bipeds, but not because we’re loving and altruistic. It just gives us the opportunity to suck ourselves off by crowbarring into every conversation the epic tale of how we donated three old shirts and 17 bucks to the relief effort. Our generosity and benevolence is nothing more than an innate desire to maintain our species. It’s self-preservation, not Kentucky cordiality.
So ease up on the “Southerners are so generous” stuff. We all give when people are in need. Whoa there on the “Northern Californians can always count on each other in tough times” malarkey. A neighbor I never spoke to just did me a major solid last weekend when a small water line in my kitchen burst when I was out of town. Scale back that “Everything is bigger in Texas” crap. On second thought, let that one stand. Those Texans really are the biggest assholes in the country.
Ned Bitters was a regular contributor on HoboTrashccan from September 2006 to March 2009, writing both The Teachers’ Lounge and Overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.