Jewish World Review
Dec. 2, 2011
/ 6 Kislev, 5772
Stated objective: Know your capitals
Fortunately, my father retired before the political correctness
that dominates so much of life today came into vogue. He often said
there were two things that should automatically disqualify a job
applicant: wearing blue eye shadow and not knowing your states and
I suppose he thought that a woman who wore a lot of blue eye
shadow might also be the sort that thought Dallas was the capital
Of course, if you let something like a woman's eye makeup sway
your hiring decision today, you would be accused of eye shadow discrimination,
arrested and sentenced to perform community service with Mary Kay.
In any case, I knew this was an indirect warning to me (born
in Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska, although we then lived in Missouri,
the capital being Jefferson City) that I was not to wear blue eye
shadow and that I could be quizzed on the states and capitals at
I knew how he wove states and capitals into conversation at home
- he simply asked - but I always wondered how he wove them into
his interviews. "Now, I see here it says you are originally from
Wisconsin. Isn't Wisconsin next to Minnesota? What is the capital
of Minnesota anyway?"
If you said St. Paul, you got the job; if you said Sacramento,
you were out the door.
The importance of states and capitals so stuck with me that we
still have the plastic placemats featuring states and capitals in
a kitchen drawer from when the kids were small. One side has colorful
states and cities identified and the flip side is black and white
with state outlines and stars for where the capitals reside. They're
real crowd pleasers at holidays, parties and family gatherings when
the conversation wanes or someone starts going on about their African
"Who knows the capital of Arizona?"
"Anyone been to the capital of South Dakota lately?"
The husband and I are confident of our states and capitals, but
I can't let go of the placemats. It turns out this is a good thing,
as the oldest daughter recently called from the car to settle a
debate between her and her husband over the capital of Maine. I
was stunned to know she was considering Portland.
"I'll put the placemats in the mail!" I shrieked.
Several weeks later we took a short road trip with her family
and I announced we would compete for prizes based on knowledge of
states and capitals. Naturally, everyone brushed up and handled
the competition in a mature fashion, which meant they screamed out
the names of capitals before I could finish saying the state.
I then ratcheted up the game by asking for the four capitals
that have "City" in their name and all the capitals that start with
the letter "A."
It was a productive drive through New Jersey (Trenton), New York
(Albany) and Massachusetts (Boston). If any of us interview for
a job soon and the decision is based on state capitals, we are good
And, no, I'm not telling you the capital of Maine. You'll remember
it better if you look it up yourself. Or buy a placemat.
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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Catching Christmas" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.
© 2009, Lori Borgman