Michigan: Just needs a little CPR and a set of earplugs.

3 Apr

Talk to the hand.

I’ve been in Michigan this week for work. For some reason, people always apologize when they hear I’m here. The conversation usually goes something like:

FRIEND: Where are you this week?
ME: Michigan.
FRIEND: I’m sorry.

Poor Michigan gets an undeserved bad rap. Aside from Detroit (and the flat southeastern corner where I happen to hail from), the state is actually quite pretty. Last time I checked, it was the only state bordered by fresh water on three sides. What’s not to like about that? And the people here are ridiculously nice. Strangers actually say hi when you pass them on the sidewalk, or wave if they’re in a car. Definitely NOT something that happens in DC.

I’ll admit: growing up here, I counted the days until I could live somewhere more exciting with access to more culture. Bear in mind, I grew up in a town whose claim to fame was not one, not two, but THREE prisons (federal, women’s state, and criminally insane, if you must know). See why I wanted to move? (And yes, feel free to seize this opportunity to make a joke about Washington being home to even more criminals than three prison facilities.)

Poor Michigan has suffered more than her fair share of knocks. I suppose that’s the case when a state’s economy is tied almost exclusively to one industry. Almost everything here tracks back to the auto industry. As goes Ford/GM/Chrysler, so goes the state.

As a kid, I remember my parents (public teachers) insisting on buying American-made cars because they felt it was only fair to spend the money they earned from teaching on the cars that their students’ parents made. And I think *most* Michiganders had that same outlook, because it was pretty rare to see anything OTHER than an American-made vehicle on the road. These days, Japan seems to have a fair share of the lanes.

Speaking of cars, this week I was in the world headquarters for one of the Big Three. I got there a smidge early and had to use the bathroom, having pounded a 24 oz. Diet Mountain Dew during my commute. (Bad idea.) The two nice security guys pointed me toward the public restroom, which – conveniently – was located adjacent to their desk.

I whipped in, eager to find relief. Oddly, the door to the ladies’ room was propped open, meaning that not only was I only about 20 feet from the front desk, I could hear every word they said and – undoubtedly – they could hear me carefully unrolling a few squares of toilet paper and peeing. AWKWARD. (I pity the person with an upset stomach. It would be BEYOND awkward to have unmistakable gastrointestinal noises reverberating off the hard marble surfaces for everyone in the lobby to hear.)

As I washed my hands, I got to thinking. Are the auto companies poised for a turn-around? Will Michigan see a return of its economic base? I sure hope so. It’s a great state with a lot of potential. But it sure doesn’t bode well when everyone listening for a pulse instead hears the flush of a toilet.

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