Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Midwestern Glare

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that anyone reading this blog knows about life in the Upper Midwest. I've lived in Minnesota my whole life, and people who know me have probably visited here, if not lived here for at least a little while. I have a feeling you've all experienced or done the thing that I'm talking about today.

Have you ever been in a movie theater and been annoyed because someone behind you was talking? When this happens, do you say something, or do you just look over your shoulder and glare in the direction where you think the noise is coming from? The latter is the Midwestern Glare. Not wanting to cause any additional distraction, the generally polite Midwesterner will choose the silent approach to shutting up an annoying movie-goer.

The Midwestern Glare is not limited to movie theaters. I never knew how bad it felt to be on the receiving end of The Midwestern Glare until this morning.

I listen to my iPod on my bus ride into work. I take the non-express bus because it's less crowded and a longer ride (so I can doze off if I so choose).

This morning, I was listening to a podcast by Paul and Storm. Funny, but not obnoxious (this time). I realized, maybe five minutes into the bus ride, that I could hear hip-hop music that was certainly not coming from my podcast. The sound was emanating from somewhere behind me. Like any good Minnesotan, I looked over my shoulder and delivered the Midwestern Glare. The guy I assumed was the culprit had his eyes closed. Likely sleeping (though how anyone could sleep through music playing that loudly directly into his ears is beyond me).

Naturally, nothing came of it. I ignored it and continued listening to my podcast.

Later on, close to the end of my bus ride, I noticed at least 3 other people on the bus who seemed to be annoyed by the loud hip-hop music. Keep in mind the fact that I could hear it clearly (almost clearly enough to make out the words) while I was listening to my own iPod on noise reducing headphones. It must have been really loud to the rest of the bus. Then I realized: those people weren't delivering the Midwestern Glare to the sleeping fellow a row behind me and across the aisle.

They were giving me the Midwestern Glare.

Really, people? Do I look like the kind of person who listens to hip hop loudly at 6:45 AM? Really? Just because I'm the only one you can see wearing visible headphones (they're hot pink) does not mean that I'm the only possible source for the sound you're hearing.

I was offended. Did I get any apology glances after Sleeping Guy got off the bus and the loud hip-hop music stopped? No. So I'm also kind of peeved.

But the whole situation makes me realize that the Midwestern Glare is something to be afraid of. It hurts when you get hit by the daggers someone shoots from their eyeballs. Maybe I should think about trying another form of righteous civilian discipline.

Of course, I did ask one time for the guy sitting next to me on a bus ride to turn his music down. He said nothing, and turned down his music ever so slightly. This same person sat down next to me a month later, again playing music far too loudly (and I realized that he was using a cell phone to play the music and wasn't using headphones). I asked him to turn it down. Again, he reduced the volume ever so slightly. I could barely notice.

So, in conclusion, nothing works - at least, not if you want to seem polite. Maybe next time I'll have to try yelling. That might work. Hopefully I'll be able to turn off both my "Nice Girl" gene and my passive aggressive gene - otherwise I don't think I'll be able to be mean.


  1. That's so funny! So, you think they thought that YOU were the one listening to the loud hip hop? Maybe if you had turned off your Ipod, and they still heard it, they would know that it wasn't you.

  2. The Midwestern Glare is very much a Minnesotan thing, I think. We don't have it in Michigan (and I consider MI midwest). I feel this glare is also applied to misbehaving kids, usually with an accompanying slight disapproving shake of the head. But more importantly, the Glare itself is just a small sliver of the overall "Minnesota Nice" mentality that I've come to realize is actually "Minnesota Passive Aggressive Polite but not Actually Friendly". It's a strange phenomenon, but very apparent when one moves from out of state. Very much a "you can get close, but not too close, I have enough friends kthxbye" sort of thing.

    Okay, I'm done. :) - Mandi

    PS - I really love it here, I swear.

  3. Oh, Mandi, you're so right. I meant to emphasize how passive-aggressive the Midwestern Glare is. Or maybe I should call it the Minnesota Glare.

    Hey Iowa and Wisconsin people, have you experienced the Glare? I'm wondering if Michigan is just too far east for the phenomenon...

  4. I kind of wonder if Michigan is too hard to put in to a specific category. Out here my experiences with Michiganders is either they're Midwest nice or East Coast stick up their butts. Nothing in between.