The people of southern Maryland are not immediately delighted with me.
This has been hard to handle, I admit. Because everyone in Texas generally thinks everyone else is pretty awesome.
There are always exceptions, but Texans are typically a warm and open people. They smile at strangers and mean it. They stop what they are doing to talk (and talk, and talk). Most folks in the lone star state are able to look up, hold eye-contact pleasantly, ask follow-up questions, and then wait patiently to hear the very lengthy, winding response.
Not so much in Maryland.
If there is any eye-contact at all it is to size up the amount of annoyance you are providing. It is not pleasant. There is no smiling allowed at first meeting, I have discovered. And asking a personal question? Have I gone stark raving mad?
Of course there are exceptions to this generalization, and my research is purely personal and empirical. The people here are truly decent, good, interesting and gracious once you get to know them. Open and welcoming at first encounter? That, they are not.
For some reason, I took it upon myself to improve the entire Maryland emotional landscape upon my arrival to the state. I meant to win over every single soul I encountered throughout the day with mega-watt warmth and hospitality. I would show them a better way! “You may be a little snippy now, but after five minutes with me you will be swell!”
“Heyyyy there!” I would beam crazily to one-and-all, no matter the degree of icy chill that was bouncing back. If I detected resistance to my sunny advances, I only amped it up several notches.
“Sooo, June?” June has her arms crossed, legs crossed, no eye-contact, no smile, every bit of body language closed, closed, closed. “Where ya’ from?”
I’d love to tell you it worked beautifully, and all you need to do is be happy, June melted, and now I am mayor of Happyville.
But no, my cheerfulness only seems to bug everyone and I probably appear somewhat drunk to most of the dear folks I meet. I’ve been upsetting the Maryland protocol apple cart. They don’t do “happy to meet you” here.
Winning the battle of a smile or some eye-contact has been tougher than I ever imagined. But, far from staying at the requested arm’s length, I’ve brought in the cavalry and recruited my family in the crusade.
The Halls are planting Texas-sized flags of warmth and pleasantness on every poor soul we encounter, like it or not. We’ll be killing Marylanders with maddening kindness, and most certainly bugging the heck out of everybody.
Peace to you, and great delight in all your encounters today,