1. Tornado sirens catch people off guard.
Or you cringe because you find out your new locale is in fact so unprepared that they’ve neglected to install the life-saving horn blasters at all.
You’re accustomed to a routine, and you’ve learned not to stray from it. Sirens sound, check date and time to determine if it’s a monthly test, take a peek at the sky, head to the well-stocked mini-fridge and entertainment system in your basement with a flashlight, and turn on the news. Just another stormy night in Kansas.
Outside of Tornado Alley, your routine goes to pieces. Instead, you get panicked meteorologists, a lack of posted public safety plans, and the realization that architects outside of Kansas have yet to consider basements a necessity. When you’re enduring a freak storm without warning, huddled in an empty bathtub, you’ll be wishing you were back home again.
2. Everyone you meet wants to take you to the ocean.
Your actual proximity to the ocean doesn’t matter. Each time your Kansas roots come up in conversation, your new acquaintance will ask if you’ve ever laid eyes on the ocean. Before you have the chance to respond, they’ll already have decided that you, in fact, have not.
But don’t fret! This person is your saving grace, your light in a dark place, the answer to your life’s greatest questions. Because at this very moment they’re already planning your “first” trip to the beach, complete with a picnic lunch and $.99 kites from Walmart.
If everybody you meet starts to dream about their future YouTube fame when they catch you, a full-grown adult, on camera staring wide-eyed at the Atlantic for the very first time, you’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.
3. Your alma mater apparel is no longer acceptable for formal occasions.
Even if your t-shirt is fitted, your hoodie is straight-out-of-the-dryer fresh, and your alumni polo is made of particularly high-quality cotton, it won’t work for date night. It also won’t work for interview day, fancy office dinner evening, or social networking brunch.
Getting dressed is hard when you’re not in Kansas anymore.
4. The speed limit seems low, the driving age seems high.
Any posted speed limit under 75 will seem like child’s play. When you find yourself cheering at the sight of a sign sporting a 60 and it feels like you may be breaking the sound barrier, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
But then again, we Kansans have been driving since the age of 14. Maybe those extra couple years behind the wheel justify our amped speed limits on our perfectly paved, wide open roads.
5. You can’t find the sky.
Sunrise, sunset, midday, or dead of night, a Kansas sky never fails to make a statement. When you find yourself searching for a sliver of blue through the thick of trees, between mammoth buildings, or beyond towering mountains, you are most definitely not in Kansas anymore.
6. The courtesy wave has lost its meaning.
So all of a sudden you wave to a stranger and it’s “creepy.” Waving for someone to cross the street outside of a crosswalk is dangerous, and pausing to wave another car into traffic on a busy road will only elicit a contagious line of angry honking.
If you happen to be the driver of the vehicle in desperate need of a friendly traffic wave, unless you’re in Kansas, I hope you packed snacks.
7. You need to borrow a truck and no one has one.
Not everyone in Kansas drives a great big pickup truck with 4WD and owns an endless supply of tarps, bungees, and rope. But the important thing is that their neighbor, brother, friend, uncle, sister-in-law, or coworker does, and they’re always happy to share.
Move out of Kansas, and though you’ll still see trucks on the road, their owners are mythical creatures who only appear to you in dreams around the time you’re ready to move a houseful of furniture.
8. You’re constantly defending your education.
It won’t matter that you followed the lead of Kansans Clyde Cessna or Amelia Earhart and now engineer or pilot airplanes. It won’t matter that you’re studying to become a brain surgeon in the very place neurologist William Koller was successfully tackling symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It won’t matter that you’re one of the nation’s brightest teachers, most sought-after veterinarians, or most cunning lawyers.
When you find yourself in a discussion about your Kansas education, there’s no need to dazzle your new companion with your academic achievements or superior knowledge in your field. They’ll likely be impressed simply to find out you can sing your ABCs.
9. Everybody keeps pointing out that “you’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Perhaps the most telltale sign your feet have left their home on the range are the incessant verbal reminders that “you’re not in Kansas anymore.”
But I concede, if I actually owned a pair of ruby slippers that could forever rid me of long layovers and TSA frisks, I might be less hostile about that stupid Dorothy reference.