Over the years, I’ve entertained a few friends from out-of-town in their visits to Northwest Indiana. They have always had fun, but routinely commented on some of their perceived ‘differences’ in our cultures and mannerisms that they observed. Now I’m not one to make a big deal out of a visitor’s perspective, but I felt it was necessary to finally compile a list of a few things visitors to the 219 might want to pay attention to as they enjoy the many activities in NWI.
This is list obviously a bit more for entertainment purposes than it is actual ‘rules to follow’ (hence, why they are unwritten rules). But as the old saying goes, ‘when in Rome…’, so without further delay, this is how someone would ‘do as a Region rat does’.
-First thing- set your damn clocks and watches back 1 hour. Your phone might be smart enough to realize you’re entering a pseudo-Twilight Zone area of Indiana, but your clocks aren’t that smart. You know what else makes someone look like a dumbass really quick to Region Rats? People referencing what time it is on the east coast. Welcome to the Midwest, it’s a small trip back in time (kind of).
-Avoid the stereotypical ‘whole body spine shiver’ when someone mentions Gary. Yes, they were murder capital of the world for a few years, back a decade ago. Things have come a long way then. Chicago is now the big leagues of crime, hell, the murder rate has dropped in half since then, so your odds are twice as good of avoiding it compared to then. Murder took a back seat to burglaries in that span, so as long as you don’t buy a house while you’re visiting, then leave it open to getting ransacked, we’re pretty sure you’re gonna be okay.
-Some of the best establishments in the Region are located in and around the G.I. anyway. As a rule of thumb, the sketchier it looks, the more potential it has to be awesome. $8 (Delete) buffets, windows tinted for $75, and the only real beaches in Indiana are all what you’re missing if you act like a cotton-headed nitty-muggins when the word Gary gets mentioned.
-Besides, Gary is most frequently referred to as “a friendly city” by their welcome signs and politicians, so that’s undoubtedly true as our winter weather forecasts.
-But in the event you find yourself in a confrontation, assess that one real quick. If there’s one thing quicker than talk in the region it’s usually a swift cold-cock to your jaw before you have a chance to rip your shirt off while your buddies hold you back. Be the first to act or the first to dip out, or just avoid confrontation with Region Rats in general.
-The quickest way to get in that confrontation, should you actually want to experience it first hand, is by doing 1 of three things: either mentioning how good the Indiana Pacers look this year, calling Tom Skilling a liar, or discusses how supportive you are of job exports over the last decade. That should do just fine for a black eye or broken femur. Hell, you might even be asking for a stab wound or two with that kind of talk.
-No, that’s not acid rain or the plague on the horizon, that’s smog. Get over it; we think it adds to the scene anyway. Haven’t you seen how cool night light looks in smog? Now that’s a piece of hidden beauty. You mocking our air quality is like questioning Michael Jackson’s dance moves- you will never get it, so just accept that it makes us cool and tough and all that jazz. And no, it doesn’t smell like anything by the steel mills, just a good breath of NWI air.
-If you see an Illinois driver, tradition is you give them the bird. They understand, trust me…our cigarettes are cheaper, our lottery is higher, and the drivers are superior. Can you blame them for crossing the border to see what’s on the other side? Yes, you can, so we like to remind them whenever we get the chance. In the event you find yourself in need of booze on a Sunday, they’ll return the favor once you cross to their side. It all just depends on how bad you want the booze, or how willing you are to just head north to Michigan instead in the best interest of keeping a clean conscience.
-No need to bask in the glory of a cornfield’s existence- it just so happens as we have a few of those, too. Just like the rest of Indiana. Remember guys, the black sheep is still a sheep, you’re not on Mars, just in Northwest Indiana.
-Unless you can handle consuming copious amounts of alcohol and debauchery without a doubt, don’t make ‘going out drinking’ or ‘for a few beers’ part of your Region literary. It’s a well known fact that our definition of ‘going out for a few beers’ usually means shutting down a bar with a tab that’s half your last paycheck and keeping your fingers crossed you make it to your front lawn before passing out.
-That, or futility spitting 2:30 AM game at people who will guaranteed look 88% less attractive once that buzz wears off. The point is, when Region rats go out for a drink, it’s a commitment to alcohol excellence for the night. Don’t be the out-of-towner who’s playful buzz went to ‘passed out in the diarrhea stall’- a fool like that is made every weekend.
-And when they suggest to‘catch the day game at Wrigley’, be prepared to drink until you have to peel your face from the soles of your shoes. It’s not a baseball game this year; it’s just an open-air bar with really expensive beer. And everyone is having the time of their friggin’ lives.
-And speaking of the ladies, it is right to preemptively answer your question- yes, they do kiss people with those mouths. That high pitched voice by the pool table rattling off cuss words…? That’s one of the Region’s finest, and she works in profanity in the ways other women work in gossip and exaggeration. If you don’t like their fire, I’d say your best off not coming around. Unless you want to entertain all the surrounding Region rats and comment on why such a gorgeous girl has to swear like she just hopped off the Flying Dutchman, then I would avoid coming around.
-Rule of thumb then for those undaunted in their pursuit of a Region lady- YOU AREN’T CHASING WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE SOMETIMES, BUT IF YOU CATCH IT, YOU’RE IN FOR ONE HELL OF A RIDE. Or one hell of a story, either way, it’s all about the experience.
-Don’t put it passed her either- we have ports in Indiana, too! Landlocked, my ass…you can thank the Region for the sea access, we’ll keep it open as long as Japan keeps buying our rock-hard space-aged steel exportations.
-Going to visit Chicago for a day on your Region visit? Let me sum up your little 45 minute ‘journey’ to our neighbor across the lake. Toll roads, traffic, semi, semi, semi, abandoned car with 4 homeless guys living in it, another toll most likely, then hopefully you just black out and wake up at your tourist destination. Advice of Region residents? Take the South shore train up there, they do all the driving and we especially enjoy the fact we can drink on the way to and from. If you do find yourself on a toll road, run the damn thing. Especially in Illinois, it’s not like they can keep up with that kind of crime, at least you hope. Or if you regret your attempt to stick it to their toll road system, you can always pay online- they got a picture ready for you and everything.
-Say one thing about everyone up in NWI having a ‘Chicago’ accent…I dare ya! It’s a quick way to find out if you can swim and what all those signs warning beachgoers about ‘undertow’ in the waters today.
-Calling South Bend a part of ‘the Region’ also constitutes fighting words to most of the rowdier NWI residents.
-If you’re lucky enough to find a good crew of NWI people to blend in with on nights out, just make sure you don’t inquire about future destinations or plans. We’re lucky to have made it to wherever it is we are at the time, and we damn sure don’t plan ahead enough to fulfill your need to soak in all the activities the Region has to offer. We’re not tour guides, hell, half the time most Region rats can’t be sure what city or town they’re technically in. Shut up, follow the leader, have a good time. We have an uncanny ability to sense these kind of chaotic activities in Northwest Indiana, trust us.
-Call a cab? What the hell is a cab?
-When driving, there’s no such thing as following too close. If he’s in front of you and not going your speed, you need to get really close to his car so he can hear you yelling how disappointed his mother is of his driving abilities.
-If you find yourself lost, getting your bearings is easy. Either drive north till you drive into the lake, or south till you cross U.S. 30. If you’re still lost from there, just keep on driving till your clock goes forward an hour.
These rules are always subject to change, just like ourselves and Northwest Indiana in general. But what we’d love to see are some of your ‘unwritten Region rules’ that we missed here. And for the visitors, feel free to comment on the validity of these rules as well.