I was in Kroger last night picking up some groceries. The place was packed, and one of the checkout lines extended past the newspaper rack. I reached over one woman’s basket to grab a copy of the Ann Arbor News. First she gave me a sour look, then she chuckled and said, “Read it and weep.” Usually I’m at a loss for snappy small talk, but in this case I was able to come back with, “Yeah, that’s what I do every time I pick a newspaper up. You know what I mean?” She chuckled again and said she knew what I meant. I wished her a good weekend, she cheerily said “You too,” and that was that.
But it was a good moment. It made me feel (in a strange way) like I finally “live” here in Michigan, in a way that no other moment has. I use the word “live” because I doubt I’ll ever “belong” here; there are many things I like about Michigan 17 months after moving here, and my ability to have this exchange means (kind of) that I’m finally starting to understand the Michigan sensibility (that kind of mordant wisecrack would not be made in California), but I don’t have the feeling that I’m ever going to feel like a Michigander.
Having said that, it was good to have a moment like that to store and to remember on those far more numerous occasions when I fail to understand the personality of the typical Michigander and feel like I’m stumbling around with two left feet. (Not that there is such a person, but I’m as convinced that there’s a Michigan personality as I am that there’s a California or a New York personality.)