I just moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana from the distant land of Beaumont, Texas. The two cities might only be an hour away from each other, but they couldn’t be farther apart. Before moving here, I'd always assumed that Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana were pretty interchangeable, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The biggest difference I’ve seen so far is in just how friendly and laid back people are here. It’s crazy.

For example, I was dreading having to get all the utilities turned on at my new place because I thought it would mean having to interact with unhappy municipal employees who’d resent me for darkening their little plexiglass windows with my water-needing shadow. After all, that had always been my experience everywhere else I’d ever lived. I didn’t see why Lake Charles would be any different.

I was wrong.

When I went to get my water switched on the other day, I was in and out of City Hall in under 10 minutes, and the two city employees I interacted with were actually nice to me. Smiling was involved. Laughter. It was a shock to my jaded system.

But even before then - the day I moved in - my wife and I had just arrived at our new place in the giant moving van I’d rented when Cedrick the cable guy showed up to install the Internet connection I so desperately require to survive, like a constant IV drip of life-saving medication. He came around the side of the moving van with his tools, saw me open the door, then looked inside at the enormous collection of junk and furniture and junk furniture I’d brought with me to my new home.

He turned around, then came back a minute later. Without his tools.

“Let me help you with that,” he said.

And then - without asking, and amidst my protests that he didn’t need to help me unload the van - he just started grabbing things and hauling them inside. He helped me unload the entire thing, even going so far as to lug heavy dressers and furniture to the upstairs bedrooms.

He didn’t ask for anything, nor did I feel like he was expecting anything. He just saw that I was exhausted and had a lot to do, so he lent a hand.

I can’t even.

I tipped him well and my wife invited him over for dinner once we get settled in, but in truth, there’s nothing I could ever offer him that would balance out the scales. I honestly don’t think I could’ve unloaded that van without him, and I still don’t know what crazy space-bending time magic he used to get our ridiculous couch through the front door, but I will be forever grateful for his help.

And everyone has been like that here, which can be a little intimidating for a natural introvert like me. I typically avoid people when I can, because I’m terrible at making small talk. But people here make it easy. And I have no idea why.

I’ve been doing a lot of research about Louisiana, and have come to the inescapable conclusion that it is an unknowable place full of eternal mystery and contradiction. You can buy hard liquor literally everywhere, and it seems like there’s a drive-thru daiquiri shop on every corner, but the state drink is…milk? How does that happen?

Everything here is just a bit askew from how things are everywhere else. The world is slightly tilted, and it feels like a place for weirdos. Like me.

I love it.