1. You consider highways without borderline-insane religious imagery to be drab and boring.
Whether it’s the terrifying “HELL IS REAL” sign on I-71, or the Big Butter Jesus on I-75 that, in an act of God, was struck by lightning and burned down to rebar to become Terminator Jesus.
2. You get the ‘farmer wave.’
When passing through one small town to the next, you pay attention, as you might be graciously welcomed by the ‘Farmer Wave’. This is where the right pointer finger comes up off the steering wheel — a polite gesture to welcome those passing by on the road.
3. You or someone you know has a cottage in Michigan “on the lake.”
As soon as the weather turns nice, you’re planning a getaway for a weekend of grilling out, boating, wave running, and bonfires.
4. Your mom always let you skip school to go deer hunting.
During the week before Thanksgiving, you and all of your comrades mysteriously disappeared, only to turn up with either fresh venison or frustrated looks. More of a rite of passage than a sport, you would spend days at a hunting cabin, waking up before the sun in order to snag the perfect buck.
5. You don’t even realize how much of an accent you have.
You clip all your hard consonants, pronounce your As with a hard, nasally sound, and drop the Gs in verbs with the notable exception of “tornado warning.” Ts are pronounced like Ds when in the middle of a word and not supported by another consonant — think of how we say “ciddy” instead of “city” or “liddle” instead of “little.”
Most of these things aren’t evident until you get outside the Midwest and someone calls you out on it.
6. You’ve learned to accept that there are two seasons: winter and construction.
Construction is nearly constant in the spring and summer months. With pothole damage caused from long, hard winters, road construction easily sets back your commute 30 minutes to an hour every day.
7. You measure distance in time instead of miles.
When someone asks you how far away something is, you’re likely to tell them how long it’ll take them to get there as opposed to how many miles away it actually is.
8. You go out bundled up looking like Randy from A Christmas Story.
You’ve left the house wearing a minimum of three layers including a snowsuit, mittens, and face mask.
9. You leave your car and house unlocked most of the time.
We are very trusting, I must say. People in small Midwest towns couldn’t care less whether the doors are locked or unlocked. It’s not like anything is going to happen anyway. Your neighbors are peeping out their windows and keeping a close watch at all times of the day.
10. You took Hunter Education and/or Boater’s Safety in school.
Some schools literally had you line up in the gym and take turns firing rifles at targets. We were also required to pass a written test on gun safety, hunter safety, and boater’s safety.
11. You were in 4-H.
You studied everything from livestock to nutrition to technology, and exhibited what you learned in 4-H at the county or state fairs with the hopes and dreams of winning a ribbon.
12. You know what “lake effect” means.
Bundle up, that’s what.