Coast2Coast: The art of restaurant ordering and other social niceties
I've been living in Oregon a few months now and I am trying to assimilate. I think it is going well.
I've gotten used to making small talk — with everyone. From the cashier at literally every retail establishment I go in, to the bank tellers at Wells Fargo, to the people I pass on the street while walking my dog. It took me a little while to figure out that they were all talking to me. I remember the cashier at Rite Aid asking me what my plans were for Halloween — and at first I didn't answer her because I didn't realize she was talking to me. And then I just felt lame because I didn't actually have any plans for Halloween.
Then there was the cashier Delores at Fred Meyers who asked me about the gastrointestinal effects of the "Fruit + Greens" Larabars I was buying. We proceeded to have a very open and detailed conversation about the matter, and I think I convinced her they were safe to eat during working hours. Delores also helped me save a few bucks by finding coupons in her drawer that applied to my purchase. And she complimented me on what I was wearing. I felt like it wouldn't take much for me to get invited over to her house for dinner — she was just that friendly.
I've gotten used to driving the speed limit, which apparently is a thing out here. Unless you are in the left lane on the Interstate, in which case driving 10 miles below the speed limit is the way to go. I've come to rely on the magic-blinker trick, where turning on your blinker actually gets other drivers to slow down and let you move over. I'm genuinely impressed every time it works.
I've gotten used to being able to order pretty much whatever I want at any restaurant. Restaurants in Oregon give new meaning to the slogan, "Have it your way." As my sister Diana jokes, in Oregon, the menu is really just a starting off point: "Here are a few of the items we make, but if there is something else you want, just let us know. Maybe you want something off the menu of another restaurant? We can make that too." I found a great little coffee shop in east Portland called East Portland Coffee Roasters. When I gave up sugar a few months after moving to Oregon (because of course I gave up sugar a few months after moving here; I also became a vegetarian who buys $12 cartons of eggs from chickens who live in small mansions with butlers and limo drivers), I told one of the baristas at the coffee shop about my dilemma of having to drink coffee without sugar. She told a bunch of the other baristas and they brainstormed to come up with a few different drink ideas for me, including a bitter mocha that might be the only food that brings me any joy in my post-sugar world.
The best part of living in Oregon? I haven't met a single person who voted for Trump. I'm sure there are some out here — but I've yet to meet them.
I'm sitting in a hotel in Salina, Kansas as I write this. I am driving back out to Pennsylvania to visit with friends for a few weeks. I'm driving so I can bring my dog, and my bike, and because I love driving across America — although Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio are pretty boring.
I had to get used to driving 80 mph again once I crossed into Idaho, but that wasn't too difficult. As I drove through Utah I realized to my dismay that despite the state's self-proclaimed reputation for being full of morally superior people, the magic-blinker trick didn't work. If you turn your blinker on in Utah, people speed up to intentionally prevent you from moving over. It wasn't any different than driving in Jersey.
Maybe I'm just mad at Utah because I got a speeding ticket there.
And then there was the incident at the Subway in Kansas and the teenager behind the counter who asked me what I wanted on my sandwich. I started by saying, "Pepper jack cheese." He hesitated, looked confused, and asked, "Don't you want any meat?" I said, "Nope, just cheese and veggies." He said, "I've never had anyone not get meat before. That's weird." I offered an explanation, "I'm a vegetarian." His confused look did not dissipate and he said, "I've never met a vegetarian before; that's weird."
I wanted to say, "Listen kid, Kansas is weird — every time I drive through this state there is always crazy weather and I feel like I might die." Sure enough later that night, as I was driving through eastern Kansas, the National Weather Service put out an alert on the radio about how there were two massive thunderstorms just head of me, with 60 mph winds and golf ball-sized hail, which just made me want to click my heels and go back to Oregon.