I always thought of myself as a nice person until I landed in Chicago.

Nice. Not an extrovert by any means, but nice. I smile at strangers from time to time. I hold doors open, smile and wave at babies, make a point of thanking bus drivers or baristas or whomever deserves a word of appreciation. I’ve been known to make a good first impression and have even been told that I’m capable of charm.

Five minutes after picking up my luggage and setting off for the El, however, reality revealed itself to me in the form of the many, many “Welcome to Chicago!” signs lining the corridors. By the time I’d passed the tenth such sign and realized that my brisk walking pace was much faster than that of my ambling Midwest peers, I paused to tweet my confusion.

Chicago: “Hi! Happy to have you! Welcome! Hello!” Me: “Um, I am from New England. You being so nice is SO WEIRD TO ME.” #midwestcharm

It only got more intense from there. Strangers were chatting and swapping stories as the El led us into the city. The automated voice on the Orange Line was offering tips and helpful reminders. There were no delays. People smiled at me and waved me in front of them as I switched lines.

Did I mention no delays? By the time I walked my way to Nicole’s apartment, I hugged my friend, greeted Annie and then promptly exclaimed my disbelief.

“I thought this whole Midwest charm thing was just a marketing ploy. I didn’t think it was actually, you know, real.”

Overreaction? Metro area populations compared, I live in an area with half the population of Chicago’s, but I had more people asking how I was doing during the five days I was out there than I encounter in twice that time here. And while it was a little creepy at first, I’m not going to lie – it started to feel pretty gosh darn nice.

No, I’m not going to pack up and head to the city by the lake. Despite the fact that I sat at the Conversion Table – wait for it, as that story’s coming – I am a happy Boston gal. I love Boston for its quirks, its attitude, its tough outside and sweet and gooey center.

But. But. I wouldn’t mind seeing some more Chicago-style friendliness creep into life back east. People looking out for each other a little bit more, smiling more, a public transportation system that actually works beautifully, good-looking guys who shyly send smiles your way as you’re riding that remarkable – and again, may I stress functional, as in it actually works without delays – public transportation system…

Hey, a girl can dream.

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