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Strangers in a Strange Land

Forgive the cliché title, but I’m too tired to be super creative today. I just returned from a pretty exhausting trip to Indianapolis. I got very little sleep before and during the trip, so today was all about catching up on the zzzs and just taking it easy. (I’m doing a good job at it, too!)

Indianapolis was a TRIP. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which, as you probably know, is a mecca composed of far-left liberals mixed with a lot of wealthy high-tech workers. I commute amongst a sea of Teslas whose drivers are most assuredly way into composting, veganism, and the merits of recreational marijuana (whether they themselves indulge or not). I’ve spent my entire life on one of two coasts—Pennsylvania being the most inland of anyplace I’ve lived. So, as you might imagine, my life experiences have been a bit homogenous and not very reflective of middle America. It’s for this reason that I was gobsmacked when Donald Trump was elected president: I discovered I was completely out of touch with the sentiment of the majority of the country. In fact, I really had no understanding at all of what it was like to live in Nebraska or Idaho, or as it turned out, Indiana. So the minute our plane touched down, I knew I was in alien territory.

I say this without a hint of condescension. I loved every minute of my time there. With the exception of having a terrible time finding healthy food to eat, I couldn’t find a bad thing about the place.

But it was different.

My colleague and I were in Indianapolis to conduct some market research and to visit our company’s Midwest office in Carmel. Our first research subject told us that Carmel would be quite different than Indianapolis. He described it as “metropolitan.” Maybe he meant “cosmopolitan.” But we showed up there expecting to see, you know, a metropolis.

Instead, here’s what we saw, just a mile away from our office.

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It didn’t look too metropolitan to us.

What it did look like, however, was some kind of paradise. Where we live, you’ve got to be a wilderness backpacker to get anywhere where you won’t see cars or people. Instead of the giant green, unfenced yards of Carmel, we have tiny, cramped little squares of patio surrounded by fences. The houses looked like mansions to us. And when we checked the median home values, we found that it was $137,300, compared to $675,000 in the Bay Area, which a recent San José Mercury News article called “sluggish” and a “seller’s market.” In contrast to a sometimes cold, sometimes superficial population, we found authenticity and warmth.

One of our interviewees told us that he had gone house shopping in California. Then he realized that for the price he could yield for his entire home in Indianapolis, he couldn’t even afford a down payment out west. Wow.

People treated us as exotic rarities. They apologized for their humble city. They apologized for the weather (cold and rainy, even in May). They told us how they knew how slow and backward it must seem to us sophisticated Californians.

And it was a humble city. The weather was crappy. It did seem kind of slow. But we loved every minute of it.

I started fantasizing about living in Indiana. I mean, MAN. We could live some kind of rich life there. One of those big houses with space all around it. No street noise. And those charming people. Sigh.

Then I started thinking about the snow. And the lack of high-paying jobs. And the politically conservative population that might find us to be offensive oddities. I realized it would be pretty impossible.

But a girl can dream, right?

 

 

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