When faced with uncharted territory, the savvy businesswoman must educate herself on the ways and interests of the people she will encounter, the general climate and landscape of the foreign land in question. Her travels have taught her to prepare for anything, for anything can happen…in North Dakota.
Fact 1: North Dakota is the largest producer of sunflowers in the United States.
Being on the ass-end of the professional totem pole, I was told a few weeks ago I should mentally prepare myself for the possibility of traveling to North Dakota for super-secret business pertaining to sunflowers (not making this up). I’m no stranger to some vast, barren stretches of this country, and was really in no mood to go to the colder, vaster, barrener bits of ND by myself. In fact, this possibility filled me with fear. Fargo began playing on a loop in my head, as it’s the only exposure I’ve ever had to the region. Grim visions of gore and snow banks swam before my eyes.
I decided never again to mention this trip to my boss. With any luck he would forget or delegate this hateful responsibility to someone else.
Fact 2: The film Fargo takes place almost exclusively in Minnesota, not North Dakota.
That may be true, and it explains my instinctive aversion to MN, but the damage was complete and irreversible. I had already decided some kind of weaponry was going to be necessary for this trip, to keep the thuggish Swedes that littered the highways at bay.
Fact 3: The North Dakota oil boom is an ongoing period of extraction of oil from the Bakken formation in the state of North Dakota that started in late 2008.
This my boss informed me of two weeks later, when he did NOT forget about the threat of traveling to North Dakota, but made good on his promise and told me to pack my bags; I was leaving on December 12th.
“There are lots of single oil tycoons up there,” he said, trying to soothe my obvious agitation, “And a lot more men than women.” But if one thing can make me more furious than the idea that I will have to venture into the Canadian borderlands, it’s the suggestion that marrying some fool, and having the odds in my favor to do so, would make me feel better about it. Suzanne Venker, meet my kindly, misguided boss man.
Fact 4: With the proper permits, one can carry concealed weapons in North Dakota.
Once I moved into the acceptance phase of my business travel grief, I consulted my friend Tom. He was an expert on North Dakota, insomuch that he once expressed a desire to actually move there. This was our conversation:
me: tom, my job is sending me to north dakota next week. you’re the only person i know that might find this vaguely interesting.
Tom: Where exactly?
me: oh, all goddamn over the place. north, the far fucking reaches
Tom: Jesus. What are you going to be doing up there?
me: interview men about sunflowers. drink a lot and expense it all to the agency
Tom: beware, a lot of bars there have poker tables and/or strippers
me: that sounds interesting at least
Tom: Seriously, carry a collapsible baton or something. Some of the boomtown areas are not safe for women (or anyone, really).
me: you make it sound way more interesting than i’m anticipating
Tom: Well, maybe.
So with my fears confirmed, I searched for means of self-defense. What I learned was, without a permit, that collapsible baton was going to be super illegal. But not, say, an axe handle. Or a tire thumper.
Fact 5: Travel within North Dakota is limited, to say the least.
As this map illustrates, there is but one paved east-west route across this wretched state, and it’s not anywhere near north enough for my purposes. This is only important because I was informed work wasn’t going to spring for my plane ticket into Minot International Airport (a real place), but sure, a rental car was doable. This is the part where I went from despair to rage. Did no one else understand the threat of Swedes and Buscemis all over this goddamn state?! They travel in cars!
Fact 6: Average annual snowfall in North Dakota ranges from 26″- 38″
And apparently it all fell last Sunday right on top of I-94. This is the part where I went from rage to cautious joy.
Fact 7: It is December 12th, and I’m not in North Dakota
But I’m well prepared, in the event they send me up there by dog sled later this week.
*No offense was intended to the residents of North Dakota. I’m sure it’s a wonderland of buffalo grass and oil drum pyramids. One day I will visit, and all the dread in my heart will be replaced with wonder at this bastion of natural American beauty. Until then, I will seek employment that will send me south in the winter, like the beautiful duck I know I am.