Mainers know how to tell good manners from bad.
- By: Paul Doiron
- Photography by: Benjamin Magro
Like many people I think I suffer under the delusion that I have good manners. As a rule, I don’t cut people off in traffic and try to treat telemarketers like human beings (before hanging up on them). I even write thank-you notes — when my wife provides me with stationery, stamps, and a pen. But really, who am I kidding? My personal standards of etiquette veer between politeness and rudeness on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. Of course, that never stops me from complaining about other people’s misbehavior, like that %&@#! jerk from Florida who nearly ran over me in a Freeport crosswalk last week.
But griping about pushy, out-of-state drivers just makes me more of a hypocrite because I’ve also noticed that my manners change markedly while traveling. In Maine I say “please” and “thank you” and practice the Golden Rule. But when I’m visiting New York, I think nothing of nosing my way into jammed intersections, oblivious to honking horns and Bronx salutes. I elbow my way to deli counters and stop making eye contact with even tail-wagging puppies. As a normally reserved, rural person I overcompensate in the city by becoming assertive to the nth degree. My inner Social Darwinist emerges like Mr. Hyde after a dose of magic potion.
The dictionary defines manners as “polite or well-bred social behavior” and in a perfect world — ruled by Queen Emily Post — we’d all treat each other the same way, no matter whether we’re visiting Brooklyn or Brooklin. But experience has taught me that etiquette is a highly geographical phenomenon. In this issue of the magazine [page 58] Contributing Editor Rob Sneddon attempts his own definition of what constitutes proper Maine manners. You might not agree with his generalizations, but you’ve got to respect Rob’s willingness to crawl out on a limb. Personally, I do believe that people in small Maine towns conduct themselves differently from denizens of large cities. Part of that difference comes from the lack of anonymity here. You’re far less likely to flip off a Route 1 speeder when there’s a chance he might be your dentist, or worse, proctologist.
Does that mean Mainers are better mannered than many people “from away”? As the editor of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, I’m obliged by pure boosterism to say, “Yes!” But as Camden’s answer to Dr. Jekyll, I suspect I’m just deluding myself.