Yesterday fellow blogger Carole’sThoughtfull Spot posted Jeff Foxworthy’s observations on life in upstate New York, entitled – You could be from upstate New York, if…
Some of his quips are hilarious, but one line always makes me smile: “If someone helps you in a Home Depot, and they don’t work there, you could be in upstate New York.” How nice. And how true.
We have lots of small towns in upstate New York, and my experience has been that people here are really, really nice. My theory is that it is genetic, ingrained after generations of having to be nice. You have to be nice to your neighbors in small towns because you are going to see them again really soon. There is only one market to do your shopping, and one post office, one church of your own persuasion, and one drug store, if you’re lucky. If someone is stuck on the side of the road in January you have to stop and help, because if you don’t they will freeze to death. We don’t have the social safety nets that come with big cities. No meals on wheels around here. What we do have is a rumor mill that would put Facebook to shame, but it does keep everyone current with who’s sick, who needs a ride to the doctor, and who needs some cheering up. It works.
You may notice that everyone says hello here too, or waves hello as they pass by in their truck. You will frequently see this with drivers of cars too, but with trucks it is almost universal. The overwhelming odds are that you know the other driver, and if not, what’s the harm? So everybody waves. This waving thing caught my attention as I was building my home in Schroon Lake in the early nineties. I was caught off guard frequently in the beginning – not returning waves. Bad form. How you wave is a dead giveaway as to your place of birth, and also how long you have actually resided in upstate New York. Recent arrivals, once they realize and appreciate this new custom, will wave like they are waving Bon Voyage to departing parents on a cruise. Dead giveaway. Locals chuckle at this behavior. I learned to tone it down, with a nod in the direction of the oncoming truck, and a raised left hand in acknowledgment of the offered greetings. I still stood out as a transplant – a flatlander – because that isn’t the proper upstate New York small town wave.
My friend Pete – a true local – has it down pat. I practice his wave, but I have to learn to keep my right hand on the top of the steering wheel to do it properly. The key is not to make eye contact. Using your peripheral vision only, ascertain that the oncoming truck carries a waver, and raising the index and middle finger of your right hand – without your hand actually leaving the steering wheel – acknowledge the oncoming truck. That is the wave of a true local. I call it the wave of feigned indifference.