Why Stay? Even Airport Security Leaves a Smile on Your Face

I often hear stories of people, especially young people, leaving Grand Forks for supposedly greener pastures. Well, I think our pasture is the greenest there is. This YP blog feature gives you a monthly reason to stay in Grand Forks, and not just for a while, but for a lifetime.

Everyone knows the phrase “North Dakota nice” isn’t just a saying around here, it really is the truth. But, in the last couple of days I have had a few experiences that are leading me to believe the people in Grand Forks are even nicer than the typical North Dakota nice. 

Experience #1 – Parking Lot Stranger

I was recently in Menard’s buying my husband his birthday gift… a tool cabinet. And being the wonderful wife I am, I spent a bit extra and opted for the heavy duty cabinet. Well, heavy was an understatement.  Now, I pride myself on by being an independent, strong farm girl, so I was confident that when I got to my car I could lift it into my trunk. Aaahh….no. I struggled and struggle to lift the darn thing and to keep an eye on my little girl who wanted to make a run for it through the parking lot.

As I was quietly trying to pump myself up to make one last effort, a middle aged man started walking toward me. I’m a bit skeptical, like most women, of random men coming up to me in a parking lot. Instinct put my little caution flags up ready to fend off some sort of advance or lewd comment. But the only comment the man made was “here, let me give you a hand with that” as he quickly lifted the heavy metal tool box into my trunk.

I smiled and began quickly expressing my gratitude but before I could even finish my words of thanks (and finish mentally scolding myself for always being so untrustworthy of a stranger) he just gave me a quick smile and nod and walked away, the thanks making him uncomfortable.  He obviously didn’t feel like any thanks were necessary.  That was just the kind of nice guy he was.  He didn’t think twice about helping out a struggling mom in the parking lot.

I drove home being thankful that I lived in a place where a stranger walking up to you in the parking lot meant help not harm.

Experience #2 – Walmart

Yes, I said Walmart. Not the first place one would think of when talking about having pleasant experiences with random people. But there I was in the dog food aisle, baby in cart, struggling to get a 50 pound bag of food on the bottom rack of the cart.  Again, I pride myself on being a strong farm girl.  I could have, and have many times, lifted that size bag into the upper part of my cart, but today I made the mistake of getting dog food last.  So, there I am in the abandoned dog food aisle, squatting on the Walmart floor trying to hold a heavy bag just inches above the dirty tile and slide it into the bottom of the cart.  Not the worst problem except, may I remind you, a cart has four wheels so any touch moves the cart away from you.  I’m sure the guy watching the security footage was having a good laugh at me trying to hold a 50 pound bag and keep a cart steady with my foot.

But again, to my rescue, a stranger. Just seconds after walking by the aisle, he was kneeling down beside me offing his help.  I held the cart; he hoisted the food, and both of us had a quick little chuckle at my awkward situation. And again, as I tried to thank him he simply smiled and said no problem, like he did it every day.  Which, like a true Grand Forksian, he probably did.

I never thought I would see a day when I left Walmart less stressed than when I went in.

Experience #3 – Airport Security

I would have bet no one in the world has gone through airport security and gotten to the other side with a smile still on their face… until I went through security at Grand Forks Airport. Actually, in the last six months I have been through GFK security twice, the first time with an infant, the second time with a 1 ½ year old, both times it was just me and my kiddo, and both times I walked through with a smile on my face the entire time thanks to the amazing people working there.

Time one was a little chaotic.  An infant who couldn’t stand on her own, a giant stroller, and a carry-on laden with liquids… milk, pureed baby food, and other baby supplies. As I approached the front of the line saying in my head “you can do this Michaela, just don’t get stressed out,” over and over again, a security man quickly came to my side.  Again, my guard went up, prepared for a hassle, but instead he grabbed my carryon out of my hands and helped me lift it onto the belt. He grabbed my stroller and walked it through himself. He even pulled all the liquids out of my bag for me (with my permission of course) and personally checked them out to make sure they were regulation.  All while I just stood there holding my baby, not having to do anything. He was not only polite, he actually had me laughing as I got to bypass the giant body scanning machine to find another security woman helping to repack my bag and help me put it on my shoulder. Wow! I was impressed!  Never had I gone through airport security, and with an infant no less, with such ease and such nice people. That is, until 6 months later.

Just a few weeks ago, I was back at GFK nearing the front of the security line. This time I was testing them. Was the last great experience I had just a fluke? Maybe there just happened to be a couple of really nice people working that day. But as I began to hoist our bags onto the conveyor belt, I got the same service as last time provided by a different set of staff members. And, if I wasn’t already impressed, as I turned around after putting my shoes back on, I saw a security woman give an elderly lady a hug and say ‘don’t worry, your flight will be fine.’ Only in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I really, I mean only in Grand Forks. Remember, both of those flights had to return and I had to go through security at a different airport. And on those return trips through security proved to be much more stressful and extremely unenjoyable.

My appreciation was so great it prompted me to leave a thank you message on the Grand Forks Airport facebook wall. I hope they passed that on to their security staff. They deserve way more than a simple thank you.

I know any researcher out there would say I can’t make the general statement that the people in Grand Forks are even nicer than the typical North Dakota nice with just three examples, and I they are right. But, if I can walk away smiling after encountering a stranger in a parking lot, spending an afternoon in Walmart, and going through airport security, I think that is a pretty solid evidence toward the quality of people in our community.

I feel so lucky to live in city where you can trust one another. A city where a person will gladly stop and give you a hand. A city where people give a little extra to make someone smile. There are not many places in this world that have that quality of people in such great numbers.

So why stay in Grand Forks… the people are truly some of the nicest around.

-Michaela Schell (President, GGFYP)

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