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Oct '06


Two things about Dubuque, my hometown in Iowa.

Dubuque, Iowa

1) Last week I went to a retreat for work. At breakfast one morning I was at a table surrounded by high-flyers, people with much more status than me. One of them, a middle-aged lady who is much respected, suddenly started to say to each person she didn’t know at the table, “Tell me your life story.” She asked me second. The girl who went first had some really interesting and admirable experiences that everyone oohed and aahed over. It was a pretty impressive introduction.

Then my turn. Everyone turned expectantly to me as I started my life story.

Me: Well, I was born in Iowa and lived there seventeen years before–

Middle-aged lady, much respected: Wait, Iowa? Which town?

(Interjectory Note: Ever notice how no one ever refers to places in Iowa as cities? They’re towns. And the people who live there are folks, not real people.)

Me: Um, Dubuque. Anyway, I–

MAL,MR (brightly): Oh, I know Dubuque!

Me (shocked): You do? Have you seen it on the Weather Channel map?

(Note: It’s true. Dubuque is on their U.S. map. Not on their Web site, but on their TV broadcasts.)

MAL,MR: No, silly, I’ve been there.

Me: Wow. What for?

MAL,MR: A few years ago–

(The woman beside her giggles loudly, which indicates to everyone at the table that by “a few years ago” MAL,MR means “about a hundred years ago, when I was quite a bit younger than I am now.”)

MAL,MR: A few years ago I was on a river cruise, on the Delta Queen.

(I nod my head encouragingly to show my recognition of the Delta Queen and support of her decision to travel on the river that runs beside my hometown.)

MAL,MR: It was one of those BYU Travel Study trips, and I was with several CES employees, including Dallin H. Oaks and Jeffrey R. Holland.

(Note: Dallin H. Oaks was the then-president of BYU and Jeffrey R. Holland was his successor. I respect both men very much.)

Me (very excited that general authorities have seen my hometown in person): Oh, cool. So you went past Dubuque?

MAL,MR: We stopped at Dubuque. It was a port of call.

Me (enthusiastically): Wow, that’s so neat. When I hear port of call I usually think “Caribbean.” It’s funny that my hometown was a port of call. So, what’d you think? (Sits forward in seat.)

MAL,MR: (Hesitates) Well, I think Elder Holland summed it up best when after our tour of the city he said to me, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many folks so excited about so little.” (Laughs lightly.)

Me: (Horrified silence)

Me (finally): Well. Um. I’m sorry to hear that. So, anyway, um, after my seventeen years in that hell-hole known as Dubuque, I came to BYU . . .

I managed to finish up my life story for her and the rest of my audience at the table, but it was a little awkward after that. My life story was pathetic compared to the girl who went before me. How do you continue on in a dignified manner after a much respected lady two feet from you and a general authority who became president of the very university you graduated from openly criticized the place you lived in and loved for the majority of your life?

I know the lady was just making conversation. But sometimes timing is critical, and her watch was off on this one. I don’t care that she disliked Dubuque, or even that a couple general authorities weren’t impressed by it. To her and all people like her: Just think before you speak and consider if the opinion you’re about to express will add constructively to the conversation you’re in. And if not, bite your tongue!!!

2) Today I was listening to a book on CD at work (Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld) and I heard a character in the book, an English teacher, tell her class she was from Dubuque, Iowa. I had to rewind the CD to make sure I heard right. Hardly anyone knows where Dubuque is, right ? Let alone how to pronounce it. Not unless you’re from there. Or been there. Or knew someone from there.

I went to the author’s Web site and discovered that a) Curtis Sittenfeld is actually a woman, and b) she was part of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in Iowa City, which is only an hour and a half south of Dubuque.

So. Confusion abated. And, in her bio she said she really liked living in Iowa City! And she probably doesn’t call Iowan residents folks all the time or its cities towns. And if she had ever felt like dissing Dubuque she probably would have thought before she spoke and said something gracious like, “Iowa sure has great corn, doesn’t it. Can’t get enough of the stuff.”


1 Comment »

One Response to “Dubuque”

  1. tara72 Says:

    awwwww saaaaad!!! well, I still love Dubuque. I will always love Dubuque. no matter what people say. but I feel your pain, sis!!

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