Thursday, January 27, 2011


I am a native of New York City. I was for a while a Parisienne and I'm a New Englander now. I grew up a city dweller. I expect no kindness from strangers. One of my math teachers in High School once joked that the Golden Rule in New York was either "Do unto Others Before they Do unto You" or perhaps just "Do unto Others." A friend of mine when I first moved to Boston summed up the Boston mindset aptly by saying "Yes we have a bathroom and no you can't use it."

This is what I grew up with and this is what I live with. I don't say that people are wrong to feel this way. In fact if you are too kind in New York or Boston or Paris you'll get fleeced by the con artists and gypsy kids (I stopped my lifelong practice of giving something to every homeless person I met after a beggar kid to whom I'd given 10 francs chased me down Saint Germain demanding more.)

However there is something about terrible weather that brings out the best in New Englanders. When I lived in Cambridge there was one day when it started dumping freezing rain on top of a decent amount of accumulated snow. In order to walk on the sidewalks, one walked single file in the footsteps that were layed out (because not everyone had shoveled) and sometimes through puddles. And as I navigated the physical challenge that was Cambridge's sidewalks everyone smiled at me. I hadn't seen so many smiling strangers since the Sox won the World Series in 2004. WTF? I mentioned this to one of my friends-a native of Pittsfield and he opined that it was the miserable weather that made everyone so friendly.

I saw it again this morning. A foot more of snow on the ground, sidewalks impassible, people lurching through the snow to dig out their cars and yet they all had a smile or a cheerful comment as I passed them. "Lovely weather!" said the man who was delivering something to the market on Cabot street. Weird as it may be, give the denizens of Eastern Mass a good snow storm and they become as friendly as Minnesotans.

I won't argue with that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And thus you discover the true secret of that traditional North Woods friendliness.