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Iowa Nice




"What's your name?" I asked her.


We had been talking during our wait in the  slow-moving line at the post office. 


"My name is AreYouTeeAych."


My mind went blank.


"How do you say that?" Her name was puzzling me. I did not expect an unfamiliar exotic sounding name from this Dubuque woman.


"AreYouTeeAych," she said again.

And then she just stared at me as if I was touched in the head since her name was baffling me.


"I should change my name," she offered as if to lessen the blow of my inability to grasp the complexity of what must be some kind of ancestral rooted ancient name.


"AreYouTeeAych..." I said it outloud.


And then, the penny dropped.


R - U - T - H.


"Ruth! Your name is Ruth!" I practically shouted as if I had just figured out the answer in a game of Trivial Pursuit.


"It's an awful name," she said with her voice dropping an entire register to make the sadness for her name even more pronounced.


And then, the conversation shifted as Ruth and I stood outside on the steps of the post office which is housed in a mammoth of a historic building that also houses other institutions like the police. Dubuque is full of historic buildings including the  building my friends ice cream shop is in. Their brick  building was built in the 1800s. Dubuque  is the town that began the fine state of Iowa. Built on the banks of the Mississippi River, Dubuque had a flourishing start and remains a vibrant town to this day.


"Are those tattoos you have there," Ruth asked with just an edge of morbid curiosity as if she was asking if I had a dead cat in my arms.


"Yes, they are."


"I mean are they real tattoos? Are they really tattoos you've done to yourself?"


I flashed a charming smile to beguile Miss Ruth as I felt the weight of responsibility to be a good ambassador for tattooed women everywhere. It was likely that I was esteemed to be the very first inked up human she had ever had the pleasure of conversing with.


"They are real," I assured her, "some women like jewelry. I like tattoos."


Ruth took this in with utter fascination as if she was at the circus. I took her in, this kind spirited Iowan woman in her cotton dress and pulled back hair. She was modest in every way. I was wearing a summery black halter dress that showcased my entire tattoo collection.


"Dis you show her your back tattoo?" asked Suzanne later.


"No, I decided it was best not to as a naked horned woman riding a dragon might have been too much for her."


Ruth and I said our goodbyes. "You know, you're nice,  you're real nice," and she flashed me a pretty smile with genuine friendliness. Iowa Nice is what they call it around here... she liked my version of nice.


We had walked away from each other down the steps when she called out from the other side of the building, "You really are nice."


"You are too Ruth and I like your name. You have a pretty name."


She flashed me one last smile and I flashed her  one back.


I have discovered the  best treasures in Iowa are her People who are much more than Iowa Nice.


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