One of my husbands sisters lives in FL. She recently relayed to me how she had come across some bad news in an article down there about how West Virginia had been ranked the #1 WORST place in America to live!!!!! I love that she had been here to visit and seemed perplexed by how “Almost Heaven” had obtained such a title!
But this got me thinking. I didn’t see the article myself so I had to imagine what criteria must have been drummed up for WV to be looked upon in such a light…so, I made a list of things that it must have been to cause us to be named the worst place to live:)
1. The People: Our first night living here, The Protector had to run to the grocery store 2 minutes away for one item. It took him well over a half an hour. When he returned home and I asked what took so long, he replied “The people in line in front of me talked to the cashier for twenty minutes, and THEN they pulled out their checkbook!” I won’t lie to you, it took him a while to slow down to the pace, and now, more often than not, when he is in the states, I find it is him holding up the line at the grocery store because he wants to talk to everyone too!!!! Another WV phenomenon...... it is to be expected that a minimum of ten people a day will wave at you when you are driving around in your car, it does not matter that they don’t know you from Adam….they wave anyway. FYI, proper West Virginia etiquette is to wave back. Oh, but wait, these aren’t bad things, so that can’t be why we were named the worst place to live right?
2. The Traffic: Yes, this must be it! There are a million people in this entire state after all. And do you know that every single day I find myself in a “West Virginia Traffic War”? Never heard of it? Well, they only occur at intersections, four-way stop signs and the like. Two people inevitably pull up at the same time, then, two seconds later, they each wave each other on, “You go first” the wave of driver one says, “No, really, you go first” driver #2 replies with his wave. The minimum length of time for a West Virginia traffic war is at least a full minute before one person finally concedes with a smile and a nod and moves on about their day. Oh, shoot, this isn’t a bad thing either….hmmm, going to have to keep digging to find the real reason behind this ranking.
3. The High Cost of Living: We moved here from Massachusetts in 2008. At the time, we rented an adorable renovated barn here to live in. Three bed, two bath, two story…maybe about 1500 square feet on 8 acres of land. We paid LESS for that rental than we paid in Massachusetts in 1993 for a one bedroom apartment complex apartment that was about 500 square feet. And our new house? Half the taxes as we paid for our home in Massachusetts. Gas is also cheaper, so are groceries, and, oh wait, I am doing it again aren’t I? No one determining the “Worst place in America to live” could use this data. Let’s move on.
4. The Beauty: I think I figured it out! Maybe the author of the article doesn’t like curvy roads, even when those curvy roads lead you around the most majestic mountains and rolling hills this girl has laid eyes on since traveling to Ireland. Fields of cows, sheep, goats, always with a backdrop of mountains lingering like something out of a movie set. Eye-popping red barns, antiquated old barns falling apart at the seams, and it all goes and on and on as far as the eye can see. That must be it, the author of the article must be a beach person, unable to have his breath taken away as so many do when they visit here for the first time. Or as I still do each day when I drive the children to and from school.
5. 5. The Pride: It still gives me goosebumps to live in such a place…a place where people say “I am from West Virginia” as though it is a badge of honor..and if you are out of state and you run into another West Virginian, well then, you have made a friend far from home. This past weekend we were at a band event for my daughter in a town an hour north of here. The band conductor introduced himself as a transplant, an Army brat, but mentioned that his father had been from WV. He reminisced of how, growing up on an Army base, his dad would point at various soldiers over the years and say “That there is a WEST VIRGINIA boy!” and in honor of his dad, he had the band play “West Virginia Hills” as he read the words..and I know that I know, that I KNOW I was not the only one in the room that evening with goosebumps going up and down my arms! But pride isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least not something worthy of being called the worst place to live, right?
Well, I have explored every avenue I can think of, exhausted all of my options, and unless I am missing something, I still haven’t found a clue as to why we could be named the worst possible state to live in. The Protector said it best. One day, we were strolling along the Greenbrier River Trail (one of our favorite things to do when he is home) and we ran into a couple whose accent sounded surprisingly similar to my husbands. “You aren’t from around here.” He said to them.
“I was just getting ready to say the same to you, “ the gentleman replied, “New Hampshire, how about you?”
“Massachusetts” The Protector replied.
“So, how do you like it here?” New Hampshire asked.
“”I have lived all over the world,” hubby replied, “and this is the ONLY place I have ever lived that has taken me in. This state literally took me in and wrapped me up!”
I can’t think of another state that would take my Northern man and wrap him up with such southern hospitality that he would call it his favorite place in the entire world to live. So, maybe being named the Worst State in America is a blessing in disguise…maybe articles like that one will keep people caught up in the WV stereotype and “Almost Heaven” will forever be protected from growing to be like the rest of the country. And THAT would be GREAT news!!!