Minneapolis is a great city, but it’s not perfect. Once you’ve lived somewhere long enough, though, you get used to certain irritating regional habits, and eventually forget that really, they’re just not healthy.

For example: I spent last weekend in Chicago. In a city like Chicago, you can walk past a person on the street and not have to worry about interacting with them. You are not expected to say “hello” to strangers or make conversation with bus drivers. If you’re not going out of your way to make contact with people, you don’t have to worry about them going out of their way to make contact with you. In a large, crowded city, this is not a symptom of man’s inhumanity towards man; it’s just a way for people to give each other a certain amount of psychic space in a land where physical space is hard to come by.

In the Twin Cities, on the other hand, people are always smiling and greeting you as you walk by, even when they’re not getting set to ask you for money. When I first moved to Minnesota, this creeped me out to no end. Now I realize that people actually think they’re being nice when they bombard me with their “how are you”s, even though they are, in fact, just intruding on my personal circle. Am I really expected to return everyone’s hellos, to treat all two million people in the metro area as my immediate neighbors? Because really, having to interact like that with everyone around me would drive me insane pretty darn quick.

Luckily, I am pretty good at not making eye contact (a fact that anyone who’s ever tried to have a conversation with me can probably attest to), so I manage to dodge most people’s attempts to pretend that they care whether or not I exist. There are times when a lack of social skills is a cause of awkwardness, and there are times when it’s the only thing protecting you from awkwardness.