© Ryan Chernik/RyanChernik.com
But in Saint Paul. O, Saint Paul! I can get from my house to my office downtown in six minutes. Using Google Maps, I can see that someplace is ten minutes away, and I get there in eight. This means I have control over the events of my life and I know what will happen to me in the course of my day.
Please understand that this is not how things work in other major American metropolitan areas. In places like San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, or Dallas, people can get in a car to cross a city and have no earthly idea when they’ll arrive at their destination.
Still, I hear traffic reports on the radio here about slight congestions on Interstate 94 or the Crosstown Highway, sometimes up to a few minutes. “Ha!” I shout whenever I hear those reports. It’s highly cathartic.
2. Medium Pacing
But Saint Paul! O, Saint Paul! In Saint Paul one has time to actually conduct a conversation, but not so much time that the conversation runs aground. One can enjoy the moment but still have another destination to get to at some point. I learned this in a coffee shop soon after moving here, when I realized that the person in front of me had completed her transaction with the barista but had not completed her conversation about snow and whether or not we were about to get more. Because Saint Paul has medium pacing, this meant the chat was not to be rushed along but would conclude eventually. Which it did. Eventually.
3. Things Hold Still
But in Saint Paul! O, Saint Paul! Everything stays put. And not just seismically. The people stay put too. The tectonic plates of human events don’t leave people adrift like human Pangea chunks. “Oh, I’m not from here,” said one of my new neighbors when I first moved here, “I grew up in Mendota Heights.” What did she do, walk?
I have noticed that plenty of Saint Paul kids do move away for college and a while after but return when it’s time to get married, have kids, and settle down. If you’ll pardon my Washington state metaphor, they’re like salmon: venturing out into the world, returning home to spawn and die.
4. The Otherness of Not Being Minneapolis
When I knew my family was moving to the Twin Cities, I instantly wanted to live in Saint Paul, even though I knew very little about either city. It just seemed inherently more comedic to live in the smaller place. Especially because it’s the capital of the land of ten billion lakes and the whole city has just six lakes—only two of which I’ve ever heard of, and I’ve lived here five years. Come on, that’s hilarious.
5. The Incomprehensibility of City Planning
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