Suzanne Tobias

Readers respond to Wichita hater with a list of things our city has going for it

Exploration Place has been called one of Wichita’s gems.
Exploration Place has been called one of Wichita’s gems. File photo

About a month ago in this space, I told you about an anonymous angry caller who left a lengthy voicemail detailing all the things she hates about Wichita.

The caller, who didn’t leave her name or number, railed against road construction projects, Old Town, the new library, downtown apartments and witless elected officials who can’t seem to get anything right.

First things first: She never called back.

That was disappointing because I genuinely sought a conversation with the woman, in part to try to decipher her negative feelings. Was she just in a bad mood the night she left those messages on my phone, frustrated by bar crowds in Old Town or traffic cones on Kellogg?

I guess we’ll never know.

What did happen, though, was a flood of e-mails, phone calls and social media messages from people wanting to defend this city we call home.

One of my favorites was from a gentleman (again anonymous) who began his voicemail: “I used to be a Wichita hater … until I moved to Topeka.”

Snort. (No offense, Topeka.)

He said he used to complain a lot about Wichita drivers and what he thought was a dearth of decent restaurants, shopping and other amenities in this town, until he lived elsewhere — including Topeka and Houston — and realized how good we have it.

Susan Osborne, a lifelong Wichitan who has served on several community boards, e-mailed to make an important point: Not all 70-somethings are negative Nellies.

“Many of my Millennial Facebook friends … rant about us old folks preventing them from having the Wichita they envision,” wrote Osborne, who lobbied in favor of Old Town redevelopment when she served on the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.

“Is there any way you could point out that the old curmudgeon you wrote about today is NOT representative of the entire Boomer generation? Many of us fight for continued improvements to our wonderful city.”

Point made.

Others called or e-mailed to point out city gems such as the Sedgwick County Zoo, Music Theatre Wichita, Exploration Place and the Wichita Art Museum.

One e-mailer, identified only as “Charming Curmudgeon,” said he/she agreed with my original caller.

“I have lived in Wichita 40 years and find its lack of green space ugly,” Charming said.

“Downtown is a sea of pavement where buildings once stood. WSU tore out a golf course and put up a shopping mall. The parks have an unkempt look. Worst of all, Botanica mixed up the color of its tulip bulbs.

“Take off your rose-colored glasses and look at the beige around you!”

My favorite call came from another 70-something woman who also failed to leave her name but spent several minutes — again, two back-to-back voicemail messages — cataloging the things she loves about Wichita.

“There’s that museum of treasures,” she said, no doubt referring to the Museum of World Treasures in Old Town. “And the hiking and walking paths where you can go and just enjoy the sunshine and nice weather.

“I like to go to Botanica, prowling around and looking at the flowers and things,” she continued. “We have the Wichita Symphony, and what else? Hmm, let’s see. Well now my mind went blank again. You can tell how old I am.”

Old enough, it seems, to know that Wichita is as horrible — or as wonderful — as you choose to make it. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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