I can safely say my job at this point in time utilizes two of my life skills: travel and talking to complete strangers. As everyone has learned who knows me, my days are frequently filled with random interactions with strangers, so I may as well get paid to talk to people in different places around the country.
When I found out I was traveling to Utah for a week, I was hesitant. It wasn’t a state I’d ever been to, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But I knew I was renting a car and traveling to cities to see “the real Utah” which has always been the crux of what I want when I travel. I knew it would be an adventure, and, at the very least, I could add another notch to my belt of places I’d been.
I drove the car through the mountains and was shocked at how beautiful the view was wherever I was going. Driving an hour and a half didn’t seem like such a daunting task when I was cranking the AC, listening to The Killers, and taking in the view.
Then a funny thing started to happen. Every time I walked into a place, the door was held open for me. Yes, most of the time these places were McDonalds, Starbucks, or diners that my coworker, Laura, and I stopped in to pee and grab a drink, but it was still very un-Seattle behavior.
People seemed chatty and nice. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Even getting the rental car from the airport, the guy walked up with a big smile and asked my name. I told him “Lauck. L-A-U-C-K.” I always spell it out to prevent the inevitable, “I can’t seem to find that” or “What did you say that was again?”
He looked at me and said, “Well, I’m Chad. Nice to meet you.”
I looked at him sheepishly, feeling like a complete asshole because he wanted my actual name and not my last name for the purposes of the car rental. I apologized and muttered that my first name was Carly and I thought he was taking my reservation.
He looked up my rental, and I asked for a receipt. He gave me one that was “so long you will be able to strangle a coworker with it if you wanted to.” I laughed, and looked at Laura, wondering which one of us he was implying would want to strangle the other one before the trip was over.
I was confused by the kindly nature of everyone straight out of the gate. Waitresses in diners were chatty. Chad the car rental man seemed to be loving life. What was this land that I had traveled to? The Seattle Freeze had melted in the 100 degree heat of Utah.
I started to wonder about my luck when the guy at the front desk was clamoring to help me find a post office. When I met up with Laura, I looked at her and said, “I think I’m a Utah 9.”
“What are you talking about?” she responded, likely already rolling her eyes as she is used to listening to my general rants about nothing on a daily basis.
“I think I’m probably like a 5 most places, and Seattle is no different. I think I’m pretty average looking. But I think there’s something about me in Utah that makes me different. I think I’m a Utah 9. I’m an enigma here.”
She laughed and shook her head at me while I wondered if it was my brazen attitude, my overly chatty nature, or if I was some sort of forbidden fruit in Utah that was doing me favors there, but it was working out well for me. I assured her I could marry into a strict polygamist family as a 3rd wife by the end of the week if I chose to really apply myself.
A British man started chatting me up in the elevator about how I was his designated driver since I pushed the button. I laughed, wondering where all of this was coming from.
A creepy old guy started asking us about the caliber of wine at the hotel happy hour. While I started to get lippy about him wrecking my “happy” hour, I took it in stride. It wasn’t like we were in Nappa. This was free hotel wine. The choices were white or red. Deal with it. When he explained that he didn’t know much about wine, I wanted to snap, “You don’t say?”
But I held my tongue, and Laura and I dismissed ourselves from the table so we would be left alone by this creeper. It’s not always easy being a Utah 9, but someone’s gotta do it.
And it wasn’t just men. I got compliments on my dress at a place we ate lunch from our waitress.
A woman at the gas station stopped me and gushed about how cute my gladiator sandals were and was dying to know where I got them.
I didn’t know what was happening, but something about being in Utah was agreeing with me.
We packed up our bags and flew back to Seattle. I wondered what it would be like fading into the background of Seattle again. I thought maybe I was just more chatty in Utah because it was all new to me. Maybe I was just missing the memo and I was so jaded on Seattle that I just needed to change my tune.
I wasn’t planning on moving to Utah any time soon, but it was definitely a nice break before returning to Washington again for a bit, where I would wait in line for a taco in complete silence for thirty minutes while no one talks to each other and wonder if a grown man has shit himself while sitting on the bus behind me. It isn’t always glamorous, but it’s the place I have chosen for the time being.
We walked off of the plane lugging our bags to the parking garage elevator. I looked around, ready to take the city of Seattle by storm with my attitude change. Laura held open the elevator door for a family who was also going up, who all turned around to look at us and then turned the other direction as if they didn’t see her trying to be polite. The Seattle Freeze was still alive and well.
The doors shut and I looked at her and said, “Welcome back to Seattle.”
Personally I looked at all of the kids in that family and wanted to reach for the door close button, so she’s a better person than I am. And maybe I fit in with the Seattle Freeze mentality of keeping to oneself more than I want to sometimes.