Moving to a new place is always a shock to the system, but it seems more-so when your “of a certain age”. Strange differences between cities, States, even geographic areas can be startling, even though they are – in themselves – of little consequence. Some differences are jarring, totally unexpected, others just surprising and a pleasant change.
For example, the City of Toledo seems obsessed with speed bumps. There are speed bumps in parking lots, apartment complexes, even some side-streets are strewn with the annoying things and can cause serious damage if you’re not looking for them. One such street near my new apartment had me literally bouncing off the ceiling of my car before I even saw them. There are at least four bumps (possibly five) on that connector between major east-west arteries. I’ve learned to avoid it because of this, but what a shock to find myself bouncing wildly on a simple city street!
Another jolt to the (my) system came on a simple search for our evening meal. I am partial to meatball subs, and one evening my wife felt poorly, so I decided to get a meatball sub (she hates the things) since I’d be on my own that day. Marco’s, a name I’m familiar with from Erie, Pa., has a shop about a mile away so I called to order my treat (I have always liked the Marco’s meatball sub especially well). But when I called, I discovered that Toledo Marco’s restaurants (Toledo is the original home of Marco’s) do not offer meatball subs! Stunned, I called several other pizza shops in my area, only to find that NONE of them sell meatball subs! You’d think I was asking for caviar-stuffed scorpion tales! But what can you expect from a town that has never HEARD of pepperoni balls, ox roast sandwiches or Smith’s hot dogs and ring bologna? Greek burgers would be like asking for the moon!
Sure, all of these things rattle the system. But there are compensations: I find that Toledoans (Toledans?) almost universally drive much more safely than Erie people. The City speed limits are slightly higher here, but drivers almost always adhere to the limit, so one feels comfortable complying. Also, they show a much greater willingness to make room for the other guy and seem to take the “new guy’s” indecision much more calmly them Erie folk.
Most pleasant of all is the way one is treated in local shops, stores, restaurants, ect. When the bank teller I encountered this morning said: “Thank you for choosing Huntington Bank” this morning, I got the distinct impression she actually meant it! She seemed to appreciate the fact that I was there. Now, I AM aware that this was a canned utterance and that she says it a thousand times each week. But for some reason the average retail or public contact workers in this area seem to have been schooled in making their greetings seem heartfelt and honest. And it seems to be almost universal in the area. Hell, I worked in retail for 28 years in Erie, and was always provided with a standardized opening line. But never in those years was I told to make it sound real. I rattled it off in wooden monotone, and no manager/trainer ever corrected me.
I’m trying hard to get used to the new environment, and I suspect I will succeed one day. I may never get used to the flatness of the area – the complete lack of geographic features – but that’s all right. I can find most places as long as the battery in my phone holds out, and despite the fact that Toledo is not the absolute N/S – E/W grid I’m used to I am getting the hang of this place. I just pray to God I’m not in the same zip code the day friend Dudley discovers the meatball sub thing.