JULIE STAFFORD: Only in Michigan

By Julie Stafford • Last Updated 10:00 am on Monday, March 12, 2012

Julie Stafford

When I was a writer for the paper in Boulder, we had stories we referred to as O-I-Bs, or Only in Boulders. These were the stories of unusual people and things that happened, seemingly only in Boulder.

For example, there was Norwegian Trygve Bouge, who lived in a funky small, mountain community and became somewhat of a local celebrity when he built a shed in which to store his dead grandfather in a box of dry ice. His hope was to keep his grandpa’s body frozen until scientists could figure out a way to bring him back to life. Poor Trygve ended up getting deported back to his native Oslo because he got caught with marijuana. But today that small mountain town draws huge crowds each year to celebrate Frozen Dead Guy Days.

More recently Boulder was in the national news because it had a Peeping Tom, or should I say Peeping John, who hid in a Porta-Potty during a yoga festival. We’re talking down IN the Porta-Potty. Gross, I know. Nevertheless, a perfect example of one of those Only-In-Boulder stories.

While these things gained notoriety because of how strange they were, I want to suggest that there is such a thing as an O-I-M — Only in Michigan. I’ve tried to explain to people that there truly are differences in the way people receive you in Colorado and Michigan. Here the unusual stories that might be considered an O-I-M aren’t about weird things, but more about how people go out of their way to help. Let me explain.

Last week, I met a friend who was in town for a meeting at the Winter Inn. After 30 minutes of sitting in the bar chatting about old times, one of the servers came to our table with a pair of sunglasses. As she peeled a note off the rim, she handed them to me and said, “You left these here a year ago and I didn’t see you for a long time. When you came in next, I couldn’t find them. But I wanted you to have them back.”

I was speechless. Sort of because I loved those sunglasses and had written them off as lost for good. But even more than that because the folks at the Winter Inn had held on to them for an entire year and cared enough to give them back. Not that people in Colorado are mean or deceptive, but if I’d lost them out there, it’s safe to say I’d never see them again.

I’m continually amazed at how kind and willing to help in some small way people here are. As newcomers we’ve seen it in the schools, in local businesses, and among friends. School leaders know kids’ names, strangers at the gas pump ask if you need help putting air in your tires, and businesses care enough to save your sunglasses until they see you again — even if it is 12 months later. These things just don’t happen everywhere. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: This is a very unique place to live and raise a family. It’s important to remember that each of those small things you do or say each day to help someone out, add up to make one big difference. And that, my friends, is what you call an O-I-M.

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