Sunday, January 09, 2011

Being There, U.S. Edition

Recently I heard a discussion of this question: When have you "been" to a state? That is, if you were listing all the places you have been in our nation what level of experience would qualify you to include a state?

It was generally agreed that merely landing at an airport (without leaving it, such as when changing planes) doesn't count, and I'd agree; that merely gives one a feel of that airport, and that may be minimized by the focus on finding the other gate.

Even if one leaves the airport, if all one does is drive to a non-descript chain hotel near the airport for a meeting, and then one turns around the next morning and goes straight back to the airport does that count? I'd say it does, as likely one had to interact with residents of the city (who, presumably are residents of the state). Of course, that alone may not be truly representative of the entire state, but now we're digressing to the conundrum of whether visiting a small portion of a state qualifies.

Does driving across a state, seeing the scenery from ground level, but only stopping at gas stations or rest stops and not interacting with the locals any further than paying for fuel count? I'd say it does; with that, one did get at least some feeling for the terrain, and that must count as part of what makes up a geographic region. The land itself is less individualistic than the inhabitants; even if a majority of people living in a state have general personality traits there's undoubtedly many who are different, and thus we have to get into the argument about who more truly represents the state.

But the ideal certainly involves having a distinct experience that is somehow unique to that state (a McDonald's drive-thru, for example, is unlikely to qualify). Something that gives one a taste (literal or figurative) of how that state is different from other states (to the extent that the flair of an entire state can be encapsulated thusly).

However, the question begged by this question that no one seems to ask: Why do we feel compelled to dwell on whether we've "been" to a state? Having set foot (or tire) on some of the ground in an area designated as that which is under the jurisdiction of a particular government really only makes an impact on one if there was some noteworthy experience.

Having been to all 50 states but having had significant experiences in 10 of them does not carry the same weight when it comes to bragging.

But keeping track of whether one had such an experience is harder to remember, so that's why we just track having "been " there.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, spending a night in a place away from the airport counts as "being there" for a state. Also for a country, I would argue.


So, what do you think?