I am amazed how often I hear this friendly phrase, "Welcome to North Dakota." At first I thought this must be an organized group of North Dakotans, like a Welcome Word Wagon, welcoming people to North Dakota. But now I realize there is a more sinister, hidden meaning behind that famous phrase.
My first year here I must have heard, "Welcome to North Dakota" at least 30 times. I just figured these friendly North Dakotans realized from my accent that I wasn't from here and they were just welcoming me to North Dakota. I would smile and say, "Why, thank you," which they always followed up with an awkward smile.
Now my second year here, I must have heard, "Welcome to North Dakota" another 30 times. I did notice, "Welcome to North Dakota" was always said in the winter and only when talking about the weather. So I figured anytime there's a blizzard, below zero temps, brutal wind chills or even if you are stuck in the snow, the kind people of North Dakota want you to feel good about living here and they are just trying to lift your spirits when the weather has you down.
It is the beginning of my third winter in North Dakota and already the Welcome Word Wagon is out in force. I was standing in line at the grocery store chatting with the lady behind me about the dreadful weather and again that well-known phrase was stated.
Now before I tell you what she said to me, I want to say this lady went rogue. I'm sure she broke all of the Welcome Word Wagon's guidelines for welcoming people and lifting their spirits. What she unknowingly did was leak out the true meaning behind that common phrase, "Welcome to North Dakota."
All I said was, "Boy, it's nasty out there." Then that sweet lady replied, "Welcome to North Dakota. What do you expect it is winter and you are in the North Dakota. This happens every year."
She went on to say, "It always amazes me when people complain about the weather. Don't they know it's winter and they are in the northern plains?"
I know a lot of you think Texans talk slow, but y'all talk sneaky. While you smile saying, "Welcome to North Dakota" what you are really saying is, "Duh! Now shut up about the weather."
So now I'm left wondering what the real meaning is behind that other famous phrase, "Why Not Minot." The only answer I could think of for the question, why not Minot, would be the harsh winter weather here, but if I said that, then I would be set up for another friendly, "Welcome to North Dakota."
(Cindy Johnson is a community columnist for The Minot Daily?News)