Growing up in Mattoon, Illinois, all I'd ever heard about was how much everyone hated it. Yet somehow, there are still almost 20,000 citizens living there (and rising), and I know several people who claimed they were leaving for college only to transfer back into the area. It may not actually be the worst, and there are some good things, but it's definitely not the best, either.
Either way, all Mattoonians have a special bond just because they've all experienced it. Here are 22 undeniable signs that you are one of those people:
1. You have an unparalleled hatred for trains.
I'll explain why later, but you already know.
2. You're tired of explaining what "Green Wave" means.
OUR MASCOT IS CORN, OKAY?
3. You've had the internal conflict of whether going to Bagelfest and getting fair food is worth seeing all of Mattoon's finest residents.
Some of them are kind of gross, you can't lie.
4. You've seen an up-and-coming country artist at Bagelfest.
Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, I don't know who else has been there.
5. You've told people that you're from the Bagel Capital of the World.
Wow, bagels are really a big part of our lives. This is sad.
6. You've talked incessantly about how you would rather be anywhere that's not Mattoon.
7. You hate Charleston.
The rivalry never ends.
8. You spent your childhood summers eating custard and swimming at Lytle Pool.
Or, if you were like me and your parents didn't want to pay for the pool, you swam in the park fountain. It wasn't that bad. Also, Twistie Treats was a local landmark.
9. You know someone that you literally grew up with who acts like they are from the Deep South.
Big truck, Confederate Flag, and even a Southern accent? You're in Mattoon. Chill.
10. You're completely used to having all four seasons in one week (or even one day).
Remember going to school in the freezing cold with flurries and then emerging to it being way too warm?
11. You can't count on more than one hand the people you know who actually managed to escape.
Everyone either goes to Lake Land, goes to EIU, or transfers back to them (for one reason or another) within the first two years of leaving.
12. You hate anyone who says "Muh-toon" instantly and have to give them a lesson in proper English every time you meet.
My go-to line is, "Do you sleep on a "Muh-tress?" No, you sleep on a "mattress," because "two consonants behind a vowel indicate that it is pronounced with a short vowel sound" is way above their understanding. "Meth-toon" is even worse, but you know it's funny and true.
13. You've seen enough corn to last you about four lifetimes.
14. You have waited at least an hour on a stopped train before.
Who thought it would be a good idea to literally build the town half on one side of the tracks and half on the other? Who thought it would be a good idea to change train cars in the middle of town?
15. You've almost gotten into at least three accidents while trying to either go to or leave Walmart.
Are we ever going to fix that damn intersection? No, probably not. It would also help if the people of Mattoon knew how to drive.
16. You have to tell people where you're from either by referencing the interstate or EIU.
Because "in the middle of a cornfield" doesn't exactly help.
17. You've heard the phrase "Please excuse all tardies due to the train this morning" too many times to count.
Like I said, you hate trains.
18. You love Mexican food.
That's the finest dining in town!
19. You've hung out with people in a parking lot.
Or at Lake P. Same thing. We have nothing else to do as teenagers.
20. The names Burger King and McHughs have a very special meaning to you.
Ours was here first.
21. You have taken homecoming and/or prom pictures either at the train station or at the mall.
Those are the nicest interiors we have.
22. Somehow, for some reason, every time you leave, you are happy to come back in some (deep) part of yourself.
This place is kind of home, and no matter how terrible it is, it always feels good to be home.
I mean, until you've been there for about three days, and then you want to be anywhere else again.