If you are a North Dakotan, you know there’s a darker – but not like “Darth Vader” dark, more like “grumpy Death Star janitor” grey – side to the concept of “North Dakota Nice.” Specifically, North Dakotans tend to struggle with direct negativity; meaning that if there is something not-so-nice we feel we need to communicate, we do it in a passive-aggressive fashion. For example, if you say to a North Dakotan, “I think light ranch dressing tastes the same as regular ranch,” and the North Dakotan responds, “Oh, yeah?” in a casual and off-hand way, what that North Dakotan is actually saying is, “You must have lost your taste buds on a ranch dressing farm because nowhere in the frickin’ universe is that statement true.”
I was talking to a friend of mine (who worked for many years in city government so HE KNOWS) about these not-nice-isms and he reminded me of the meanest thing one North Dakotan can say to another: “Well, I’d better let you go.” The translation of “Well, I’d better let you go” is “The only place I need to be in this world right now is as far away from you as possible.” I had this conversation with my friend at a wedding reception last year and he ended our chat a few minutes later with “Well, I’d better let you go,” and he laughed and I laughed and I said, “Well, I’d better let YOU go,” and he laughed again and I laughed again and we haven’t spoken to each other since.
You may be thinking, “What’s so mean about ‘I’d better let you go?’ You’re just recognizing a person may have other things to do and giving them the space and time to go about them.” You may also be thinking, “I’ve heard that Midwesterners take forever to say goodbye, so ‘I’d better let you go’ is a good way to put closure on those transactions without making it seem like you are overly-important.” In both cases, you’re generally correct: North Dakotans are afraid of inconveniencing another person, and we (not ME, but most other North Dakotans) don’t like to make anything about ourselves (again, I have no problem with this, but other people do). As such, we have for-real-nice responses for those scenarios; for instance:
This past weekend, Kyle and I ran into two of our friends at the rink before a hockey game. The wife commented soon after the greeting that they had to go up to the third level to find their seats, which were different from their usual lower-bowl seats and therefore unknown. Kyle and I, too, were on the move – we had people waiting for us in our own spot. After we had talked for a bit, I said to Kyle, “We should let them find their seats before the game starts,” thereby acknowledging they had somewhere specific to be in a timely manner per their own indication and using that to achieve our own exit goals.
And another example: I was traveling for work a few years ago and found myself seated next to a friend on the airplane. It was a late-night flight, and we both were tired. We chatted during takeoff and the drink service, until I tipped back the last of my ginger ale and set it on the tray. “Yep,” she said, in reference to nothing. I nodded. We sat in silence for a moment, and then she pulled out a book and I closed my eyes and our conversation came to an agreed-upon end.
My son had a hockey tournament earlier this winter. After the kids went to bed, the parents went down to the hotel lounge for a chat. On my left was seated one of my dad-friends (this story is just a “LOOK AT ALL THE FRIENDS I HAVE” brag-fest); On my right was a mom-friend (jeepers, Amanda, we get it, you have multiple friends). The mom was engaged in a rapt discussion with the mom on her other side, and so I turned to the dad and said, “How’s work?”
“Good,” he said. “How’s work for you?”
With that, I held him hostage for a solid hour. Around the thirty-minute mark, he excused himself to get a drink – a perfect out – but another dad appeared out of thin air with a beverage and so he sat back down. I came up for air fifteen minutes later and he said, “Yep,” and I nodded and then KEPT ON TALKING because the crazy train was well out of the station, choo-choo. Finally, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Well, I’d better let you go.”
Obviously, I can never speak to him ever again. Outside of no longer being human because I spontaneously melted into a puddle of embarrassment, avoiding this dad has been made difficult by the fact that he is, as noted, my friend (but really, Kyle’s friend – which, if I’m being honest, is probably the case in 75% of our friendships) and so I see him all the time. In fact, he recently came to my house to pick up his child, who was playing with my child. This is how that interaction went:
HIM: Hi, Amanda. Is my son here?
[Gets kid, who takes an interminable amount of time putting on his shoes]
HIM: Work good?
ME: [Nods] You?
HIM: [Nods, gestures to the car] Gotta get to the gas station before supper.
HIM: [Nods, exits]
Anyways, if you are ever “Well, I’d better let you go”-ed by a North Dakotan and you feel like being a little saucy, respond back with, “No, it’s okay, I don’t have anywhere to be.”
The photo above doesn’t have anything to do with anything, except that it’s pretty hard to have a bad day when Kyle wears that hat.
My amazing sister-in-law makes meditation music for a number of platforms, and she recently made a track ABOUT ME. I’ve listened to it on repeat since she created it (and my wonderful and artistic niece made the cover art!). Check it out. (Spotify)
I mean, this story is just so cute. (KFYR TV)
Linton’s Dan Carr is the first head coach in North Dakota to reach 800 career wins. (KX Net)
Ready for spring? The Fargo Public Library has free seeds to help you get started on your garden. (Valley News Live)
The Bismarck/Mandan Capital City Ice Chips synchronized skating team are national champions! (KFYR TV)
Good luck to Minot’s Gabby Johnson is on her way to nationals, having been crowned the North Dakota state poetry champion. (KFYR TV)
Fargo’s Alexis Engelking and Aaron Gnoinsky (‘s house) took center stage on on a recent episode of “House Hunters.” (Fargo Forum)
The Girls Class B basketball tournament is able to happen thanks to the help of 150 volunteers. (KFYR TV)
This is the car version of the “I know a guy who wears shorts all year ‘round.” (KFYR TV)
The Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society is planning a Japanese Garden in Fargo in celebration of the non-profit’s 25th anniversary. (Valley News Live)
Did you see the story I posted this week about the Theodore Roosevelt Public Library? Check it out. (North Dakota Nice)
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