Monday, February 02, 2009

Are There Still Differences?

Many people, and I was becoming one of them, think Americans have become so mobile that regional differences within the U. S. have nearly disappeared. Employment changes have become routine, children are sent to schools far away from the nest, and nearly everyone has traveled extensively in the country. We all have Walmart, those golden arches, and other “institutions” in common. Thus, the popular wisdom holds, we have blended together into a homogenous nation, even losing those delightful southern and New England accents in the process.

Perhaps the popular wisdom is wrong in some respects.

Twenty-six years ago we bought a home on a public golf course in the Interior West. A month ago we bought a home on a public golf course in the Midwest.

Sandy and I attended homeowner functions in our Utah neighborhood without fail, served in various capacities with the homeowner association, and often walked the loop road through the neighborhood, stopping to visit with fellow residents. We became acquainted with just about everybody. About half the residents were golfers. A majority had lived in the area for all, or most, of their lives.

I marveled at the fact that an entire winter and most of the following spring passed, and no one had asked me to buy a membership in the golf club or play in the men’s association. In 26 years, no one ever did! Well into my first summer, one long-time golfer and homeowner in a clubhouse bar conversation somewhat belligerently demanded to know why I didn’t play in the men’s association. When I rather timidly ventured that no one had ever asked me to, he snorted for all to hear something like, “Hey this guy thinks he rates an invitation.”

Last night, I was one of about 30 people who enjoyed a Super Bowl party at the home next to our son’s place in Michigan. We had met the host couple (Bud and Chris Jensen) once, and had not previously met a single one of the others invited to the shindig. Sandy was under the weather and couldn’t attend, which was unfortunate because the people were very friendly. Casual conversations revealed that most of the party goers had lived in the area for many years, and many, but not all, were golfers.

Seven or eight of the men present (make that eight or nine; Bud had done so earlier) invited me to join a group of senior golfers who play together at least twice a week. Two offered to sponsor me as a member of the association. One told me exactly how to obtain a fact sheet describing all the local golf events scheduled for the coming season. A half dozen of the women asked whether Sandy played golf, and offered to sign her up in a group they belong to.

Seems like newcomers still “rate an invitation” in Southwestern Michigan.

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