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Wednesday, December 4, 2002
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Kansas City residents don’t necessarily live in Kansas
Megan Rhodes

Choose all of the following that apply to you:

a) I find myself engaged in 30-minute conversations explaining where I am from.
b) I get offended when people think I live in another state — but it happens a lot.
c) I’m from a big and well-known city.
d) All of the above.

If you chose “d,” chances are you’re a resident of the Kansas City metropolitan area — a collection of cities, counties and suburbs that sprawls across both sides of the Kansas-Missouri state line and is home to more than 1.8 million people, including more than 100 TCU students.

A resident of Kansas City, Mo., (fondly referred to as “KCMO” by its residents), I have been asked to clarify exactly what I mean by “Kansas City” more times than I can count. I know many of my fellow Kansas Citians share my frustration, and for all of you out there who still don’t understand what the big deal is, consider reading this column to save us some breath next time.

We’re in college. We come from all kinds of different places. Therefore, when we meet new people, we ask them, “Where are you from?”

I dread this part.

“Kansas City,” I respond.

That is rarely a sufficient answer. “Which Kansas City are you from?” my inquisitor inevitably asks.

One of my favorite confusing moments is when a friend from El Paso, thinking I was from the farmlands of Kansas, told me I just wasn’t used to driving in a big city like she was.

For all those of you who assume that Kansas City, one of the country’s largest metro areas, is in Kansas, this geography lesson is long overdue — there is a Kansas City, Kan., but it is a pretty small city and is really just a part of the metro area that surrounds Kansas City, Mo.

No other metro area in the entire United States is “blessed” with two cities of the same name — apparently, when naming and renaming the city, “nobody could come up with anything better,” according to a timeline from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Now, instead of being stuck with the longer “City of Kansas” name, we have to spend a good chunk of our college lives explaining to people exactly where we’re from.

Many times, an unsuspecting victim, most likely just trying to be nice and make conversation, is sucked into listening to a dissertation on the city’s geography.

“Why does it really matter?” I’ve been asked before. “So people think you’re from Kansas. Who cares?”

Think of it this way: Let’s say Dallas and Fort Worth were both named “Texas City.” Now, we’d still consider the metroplex one big area. If you lived on the east side of Texas City, went on vacation and someone asked you where you were from, you’d say, “Texas City.” This could mean you were from Plano, Addison or Irving — but you’d just say Texas City. The people from Burleson, Cleburne and Hurst all say they are from Texas City, too. But they’re from way over on the west side.

But if you were from Plano, and you said you were from Texas City, and people thought that meant you were from Fort Worth, don’t you think you would make an effort to set them straight? It makes sense that they think that — it’s all part of Texas City — but you don’t want to be confused with someone from clear over on the other side.

Kansas City, Mo., is the center of the Kansas City metro area. One of the 40 largest cities in the country, KCMO is home to the Chiefs, Royals and Blades. If you’ve visited Kansas City you’ve probably been to the Kansas City International Airport and the Country Club Plaza — both in Missouri. Ever heard the jazz song “Kansas City” by Wilbur Harrison? It’s about the famous jazz district in Kansas City, Mo.

Let’s not discount Kansas City, Kan. Consider it one of the many small cities that surround Kansas City, Mo., with slightly less than a third of the people in KCMO.

Try to think of Kansas City as one big area. Think of the state line as dividing that area in half. It doesn’t divide us into Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan. — it divides us into the Missouri and Kansas sides of a big metropolitan area called plain old Kansas City.

People from Houston, Denver and Albuquerque don’t mention the state they’re from when they say their home town — and neither do we. Our city is just as big. So next time you ask someone where they're from, and they say Kansas City, you could probably save some time if you just smile and say, “Oh. OK.”

Megan Rhodes is a senior advertising/public relations major from Kansas City, Mo.


TCU Daily Skiff © 2003

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