Saturday, March 31, 2007

New England anomaly~


I stood on the sidelines at a high school baseball scrimmage today with my husband and two other Dads, watching our sons and chit-chatting about the coach, the team's strengths, the field needing work, the beautiful weather.

One man I didn't know-- his son played for the opposing team, a private school, although they live in town-- was chatty and pleasant on a superficial Saturday morning level. It turns out he'd lived in Ohio until ten years ago. He told us how unfriendly the people in New England are.

"But I don't even know your name, and I've been talking. My husband, too," I pointed out. Bruce dug his elbow into my side, unobtrusively, a warning I don't need. I'm subtle.

Apparently our talking, laughing, and joking with a stranger on the sidelines on a Saturday morning was somehow less friendly than an Ohio person's Saturday morning sideline chat. Maybe they serve breakfast to spectators in Ohio. I don't know how to be any friendlier than we were.

New Englanders don't open up quickly, he said. We're reserved.

I refrained from telling him about my recent pelvic scan just to prove him wrong. He wasn't talking about anything all that revealing either, and I briefly thought to put him to the test and ask him about his sex life. What do Ohioans reveal on a first meeting that we New Englanders don't?

Then he made a statement about our local school system, one struggling to stay afloat financially, a statement that simply was not true.

"I hear that the school's budget is bloated," he said. "Way out of control."

"Where did you hear that?" I asked sweetly. My husband did the elbow thing again. "Because it's not true."

A rational discussion of budget restraints-- Massachusetts educational mandates that are unfunded by the pols that make the mandates leaving local taxpayers to foot the bill-- ensued.

But then we were in Ohio again. Ohio had helicopter radar that bagged speeders on highways, Ohio had a volunteer fire department, maybe volunteer everything-- he mentioned a volunteer dogcatcher-- and if the volunteers were busy, other people just volunteered. I know not one person in my town who would run after a stray dog if the dogcatcher were busy. I elbowed myself, and kept my mouth shut.

"It was like that here when I was a kid," I said. I didn't ask if Ohio had changed in the years since he'd left. Nor did I ask why he moved to New England.

Later, I stopped at a local coffee shop. The man beside me ordered a double-double.

"What's a double-double?" I asked.

"Double the cream and sugar." He smiled broadly and I wondered if he was from Ohio.

But, no, who would guess? New England!

He lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but was originally from Massachusetts, then Maine. He was visiting his mother. We talked, chatted back and forth, and when his mother came out of the ladies room, she joined in. I know where she grew up, where she went to college and her age , and her son's, and lots more-- not because I asked-- just because we opened up and talked.

My husband says, because I've never lived anywhere else, I just don't understand the regional differences. That may be true. Or maybe I'm a New England anomaly. There are a lot of us around. We find each other. We're a well kept secret.

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