She’s Not From Around Here: The Honor Code

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I’ve never been robbed. Not really.

There have been two instances in which something of mine was stolen. They are as follows:

Once, at a pumpkin patch in Delaware, I painted a small pumpkin that came complimentary with each corn maze admission. I brushed on minimalistic black and white stripes, then let it dry on a picnic table while my group went through the maze.
Upon exiting the maze I discovered my pumpkin was gone — seemingly purposefully taken while all the others on the table were left untouched. I was both annoyed and flattered.

The other time was a bit more serious. While spending a long weekend in Galveston, TX, my husband and I parked the car in the driveway of our vacation rental just long enough to change for dinner. When we returned fifteen minutes later our GPS and camera had been taken. Yes, this was in the days of dash-mounted, cigarette-lighter-charging GSP devices and taking photos on something besides a phone.

Upon further search, I noticed another item missing: a Lego pilot mini figure we had mounted near the gearshift. He was a bit of a mascot, and he’d been snatched.

The stolen technologies were inconvenient. They’d been wedding gifts, and we couldn’t afford to replace them immediately. The stolen Lego pilot was a personal affront.

What does this have to do with Hot Dish Territory? Happily, very little.
Is there crime in Minot? Oh, I s’pose.

But when I hear complaints about high crime rates or talk of lurking danger, I can’t help but roll my eyes a bit. I’ve lived in places where walking alone through a park gave me the creeps. I have friends from towns where bars on windows are commonplace. I’ve vacationed in places where Lego mini figures are abducted from parked cars.

Say what you will about the extreme cold. I think it does a pretty good job of keeping the GPS-and-Lego-stealing riffraff at bay. I love Minot for lots of reasons, but near the top of that list is that I feel safe here. I’m never afraid to take my boys to the park, go walking in the evening, or run errands after sunset.

Last week while at the library, I went to the restroom. When I came out of the stall to wash my hands the sink counter was cluttered. Sitting near the edge was a purse — the top bulging open and a phone nearly falling out of a side pocket — and another bag filled with notebooks and a laptop.

I thought nothing of it as I washed my hands. Moments later a toilet flushed. “Ope, sorry about that. I’m hogging the whole counter,” a woman said as she came to join me at the sink.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got plenty of room,” I replied.
“Only in North Dakota, right?” she said, gesturing to her belongings on full display. “Can’t leave your stuff around like this just anywhere.”
It’s true.

Amy Allender Photo

The first time I saw a car left running a parking lot — keys still in the ignition — my brow wrinkled. Surely they forgot. This cannot be commonplace.
But it was. It is.
There’s a kindness, an honor code that seems to prevail here. Cars left running will be there when you come back out of the gas station. Your stroller and diaper bag will be exactly where you left them when you’re finished on the playground. A purse and laptop will be okay on the bathroom counter.

It’s just another aspect of life here that has spoiled me. Perhaps even spoiled me toward living anywhere else. The rest of the world isn’t like this. This is special.

I’m not saying crime doesn’t happen. And I’m definitely not implying you shouldn’t keep an eye on your stuff. It’s just that we’ve got a really good thing going here. Let’s not take the beauty of prevailing honesty for granted.

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