I had to go up to the pharmacy around the corner to pick up a prescription for my mom. At the counter they asked me to produce the standard picture identification. I reached into my wallet and pulled out my Idaho driver’s license. The woman at the counter looked surprised. “Idaho?” She said the name as if asking me why Idaho. I told her it was one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The pharmacist behind her heard us. He joined the conversation with the question, “More beautiful than St. Louis?”
I really didn’t mean to laugh. I’m sure they thought I was trying to be rude, as if I was talking to rubes or something. But it really was a funny question. I recovered some composure, apologized, and told them that if they had a love of nature and if they liked to hike and if they liked to see purple majestic snow capped mountains in the distance, and if you think you would enjoy standing next to streams and rivers of some of the cleanest and clearest waters, you really can’t do much better than Idaho. The woman at the counter replied that all she thought Idaho was good for was potatoes. I told them that I really missed the place and would love to go back. But it really is difficult to live in a place where you could go weeks without seeing another black person.
That was a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve contemplated a bit about that conversation. I found humor in the fact that anyone can think St. Louis was a beautiful place. Although the city has a lot to offer and there are snippets of both natural and manmade beauty here and there around the town and surrounding area, I was surprised to find St. Louis registering anywhere close to the top of a beauty list for anybody who’s been. The problem was I was probably talking to people who have never been outside the St. Louis area and therefore never had the pleasure of experiencing anything else.
But then I thought haven’t these people ever cracked open a book on nature? I mean I didn’t have to go to Hawaii to realize it was beautiful. I could see it in a book or even a television show. Long before I saw pictures of Yellowstone Park for myself I realized it was beautiful and something I wanted to see. Long before I saw Niagara Falls for myself I saw pictures that made me realize that Niagara Falls was something beautiful to see. I don’t have to travel first to know that there are places much more beautiful than St. Louis.
Still, laughing at people isn’t cool. Even though I apologized I felt bad. People have a tendency of taking their personal experiences and unreasonably applying them to others. We look at people and without even thinking we use our experiences to judge them as worthy of whatever or not, worthy of ridicule or not. We have a tendency to hold other people to standards that are impossibly unfair and totally one sided. Even if the people at the pharmacy didn’t have an appreciation for the beauty of a natural environment, I can see why someone would think that it was unfair of me to think that their love and appreciation of St. Louis and what this city does haves to offer was somehow inconsequential.
It would have been just as easy for the people in the pharmacy to have laughed at my love and appreciation of Idaho as something that you just don’t see everyday in someplace like St. Louis. If Idaho was so nice why are you here? It would have been a fair question. And any ridicule they would have had for me would have been just as fair as the derision I had of them. What’s good for the goose is just as good for the gander and I was ripe for plucking.
Had the two people behind the pharmacy counter been more inconsiderate then this would have been a totally different post. I would be talking about their intolerance for anything different and how it was a bad reflection on the black community. Instead, I have to talk about my intolerance and how it can be a bad thing for the community.
If these people believe that St. Louis is beautiful then god bless them. If they don’t want to travel and see the all the wonders of the world, then they are more than entitled. If they have seen pictures of a Caribbean sunset or the northern lights over the Yukon and thought no more than “nice photo” and doesn’t inspire any wish to travel then that’s their right. There are people who like to travel and there are people who like to stay home and believe that everything they need is in their beautiful city. The place is big enough for the both of us.