Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Courtesies of Wisconsin

I was shocked, dumbfounded, stunned even, to learn from one of my students that a recent study ranked Wisconsin the LEAST courteous state in the Union in terms of saying (or not)  "please" and "thank you" while making phone transactions. Growing up there, I would have been incredulous, but I trusted the source and then confirmed the veracity of the claim.

It is based on a tabulation derived from 600,000 phone calls, checking for instances of basic courtesies and also profanity.

The top five least courteous, in order, are:


Again, I grew up there. I consider myself  ├╝ber-courteous. I'm now a high school teacher in New Jersey (which apparently says both the F word and "thank you" more often than Wisconsin).  I say please and thank you when asking students to comply with basic classroom conduct. "Timmy, please don't throw that crumpled up ball of paper across the room. Thank you!"

So, I'm left pondering where the disconnect lies between my perception of the place I grew up in and the results of this study. I believed Wisconsin to be a highly courteous place. I lived there from 1966 until 2002 when I moved to Maryland to join the Top Secret Spy Mill the NSA (I hope I didn't just surrender my moral high ground).

So here's what I'm left to admit. It's just possible the little bubble of universe within Wisconsin in which I was raised and nurtured was not representative of the whole of that State.

I came from Norwegian stock who were largely dairy farmers. I learned early how to respond mange tusen takk (many thousand thanks) in basic conversation.

I was raised on the blue-collar East Side of Madison. We were a little rough around the edges, but civility was a virtue there.

South-Central and South-Western Wisconsin have a distinct culture based on German, Welsh, and Scandinavian agricultural stock. Those are my people. And I believe we are kind and courteous.

I knew even back then that if you travel north, to the place where the soil turns sandy and the trees turn coniferous, it was a different world altogether. And if you travel east from Madison on I-94, with each exit in the direction of Milwaukee you are more likely to hear a horn honked in anger.

And so my fellow Wisconsinites. We're going to turn this thing around. I mean, just think Big Ten Football. Ohio State beat us this year in Football. And we beat them in this? No glory there.

Please, let's be a model of civility to others. Mange tusen takk...