We always say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Actually, we don’t always say that. If we always said that we would be really crummy conversationalists.

    “Hey, Jim, what do you think of the presidential candidates?”

    “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

    “OK, Jim, what about the financial situation the United States is facing?”

    “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

    “Well, where do you want to eat tonight, Jim?”

    “You can’t judge, ooowwww…”


We always say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Actually, we don’t always say that. If we always said that we would be really crummy conversationalists.
    “Hey, Jim, what do you think of the presidential candidates?”
    “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
    “OK, Jim, what about the financial situation the United States is facing?”
    “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
    “Well, where do you want to eat tonight, Jim?”
    “You can’t judge, ooowwww…”
    Jim did not finish that sentence because his friend just gave him a swift kick in the shin and walked away muttering something about judging a friend by his intelligence.
    Anyway, it is fairly common for people to prejudge things. Sometimes that way of thinking makes sense. If a man walks up to you wearing a leather jacket, a patch over one eye, boots with spikes capable of ruining Ben Hur’s chariot, and a tattoo of a skull and crossbones on one shoulder and the phrase “Waterboarding is for Sissies” on the other, chances are he is not going to ask you if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Chances are more likely you are about to meet your personal savior.
    One way people judge each other has to do with where a person calls home. Admit it. If you ask a stranger where they are from and they answer Scranton, Penn. you will draw different conclusions about them than if they answer San Francisco, Calif.
    A recent study discussed in an article in the Wall Street Journal seems to say there are things one can assume about a person who comes from a particular place in the country. A research scientist from the University of Cambridge in England (this immediately brings to mind a stereotypical tweed wearing, meerschaum pipe smoking, crumpet eating, Shakespeare quoting, aesthete who tips the machismo scale somewhere between Clay Aiken and that kid you knew in eighth grade who was the target of choice in every single dodgeball game ever played) has put together information from over 600,000 questionnaires in order to tell the “personality” of each of the 50 states.
    These questionnaires measured what is called the “Big Five.” The five personality traits defined are: Extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. Can you imagine a person strong in all five? I’m sure after you imagine a person like that you can easily imagine yourself resisting a powerful urge to slap him across the face because he would be more annoying than fingernails on a chalk board and Dennis Miller, combined.
    Just like people, no state was strong in all five areas. Extraversion sounds like it is the director’s cut of a movie on DVD, but it really refers to the outgoing nature of a person. The number one state for this was North Dakota. There will now be a slight pause as all readers go: “Huh… North Dakota?” My guess is in North Dakota there isn’t much else but each other to occupy one’s time.
    The winner amongst the 50 states for agreeableness is North Dakota. I am starting to smell a conspiracy here. Is it possible the Cambridge researcher was given a sizable bribe to make North Dakota sound like a wonderful, friendly place to live, thus increasing its population and making South Dakota insanely jealous?
    The top state in the conscientiousness department is North…just kidding, New Mexico. This is also the only personality trait for which Kansas made the top five. This is no surprise. Kansans pride themselves on their sense of duty and self-discipline. This might explain why we don’t score very highly in the two remaining categories.
    Kansas is 34th in neuroticism and 38th in openness. Neuroticism measures things like stress and anxiety. (Digression for an old joke: A psychotic person thinks two plus two is five. A neurotic person knows two plus two is four, but hates it.) Well, we Kansans have too much self-discipline to allow ourselves to be anxious. That and a very high per-capita intake of Prozac.
    Being 38th in openness must be a surprise. There cannot possibly be 37 states with more open spaces than we have. Wait. When this study says openness they mean openness to new ideas. We can be a bit set in our ways. The majority of Kansas voters voted for a Democratic presidential candidate forty-four years ago, a Democratic senator seventy-six years ago and each election still has a number of write-in votes for Eisenhower. We still like Ike.