I can’t remember the number of times people have said to me, “You’re so nice and you work hard. I can totally tell you’re from the Midwest.” But living out in here in Los Angeles has changed me. Changed me in ways that, little by little, have ruined me as a Midwesterner forever.
1. In the Midwest, people thank their cashiers, leave gifts for their mail/garbage men, and most importantly, say hello to their neighbors. Here in LA, I live in an apartment building with only five other units. I have never said hello to any of them. Why? Partly because I assume none of them speak English. With nationalities varying from Chinese, Armenian, and Filipino, odds are I would end up offending them by using the wrong English greeting. Does this make me racist? No. It makes me an Angelino.
2. In the Midwest, people take Secret Santa seriously. Weeks of research and spy games go into effect. Email hacking, phone tapping, and tailing are all completely acceptable when it comes to figuring out the perfect gift. Here in LA, I also participate in Secret Santa’s. My work was just finishing up production and had a half-wrap party/half-holiday party, where we passed out our gifts. Mine was my Secret Santa’s resume.
3. The only area where my Midwest and West Coast selves align: Word Pronunciation. Being in southern California, Los Angeles has a major Spanish influence. Yet most pronunciations sound exactly like something you would find in the Midwest. The only word that seems to be pronounced correctly is the street name, Cahuenga. The correct pronunciation is “ca-wang-a,” yet the first time you see it, everyone pronounces it the same way, “ca-hu-anga,” which sounds like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle trying to hide the fact that he has a stutter. Here in Los Angeles. whenever a word is mispronounced and corrected by a friend or co-worker, three things immediately happen:
i. Shame. Even if you have never seen/heard the word before, you feel like the biggest idiot in the world.
ii. Blind Acceptance. Whether the person correcting you is a trustworthy source or not, if they’ve lived in the area longer than you, you accept their chastising as fact.
iii. Searching. You being an immediate quest for someone to also mispronounce the word so you can correct him or her, feel superior, and start the cycle all over again.
Second only to Cahuenga on the mispronouncing scale is “Los Feliz.” That’s because though this is a very Spanish phrase, it’s pronounced exactly as if it were a street in the Midwest. The correct pronunciation is “los fay lease”, yet here in LA it’s pronounced “los fee less.” Which is fine until Christmas rolls around and you feel like an idiot singing your favorite Christmas carol.