Good attributes for functioning effectively in a small town include common sense, humility, patience, compassion and, perhaps most important, a good instinct for the sensitivities of others. I think all of those would be perfectly obvious to everyone. I mean — one […]
By Yankee Magazine
Mar 01 2007
Good attributes for functioning effectively in a small town include common sense, humility, patience, compassion and, perhaps most important, a good instinct for the sensitivities of others. I think all of those would be perfectly obvious to everyone. I mean — one would assume most wealthy summer people would know that the habit of not paying bills to local businesses for months and months is rankling to townspeople.
It would seem equally obvious, too, that if one wished to get along well and happily in a small New England town, one would not hire workers from outside; in a letter to a local newspaper advocating that newer people be taxed more, one would not refer to one’s own property as “my ancestral lands”; one would think twice before giving one’s worn-out clothing to a family one considers poor; one would not ask the commodore of the local yacht club how much money he’d be willing to take for his boat; one would be very careful about decorating one’s garden for the annual garden club tour by hanging one’s underwear on various casually displayed clotheslines to simulate the gay informality of an Italian garden; during a burial service at the cemetery, one would not refer to the bereaved wife of the recently deceased resident as “the widder of the corpse”; one would not put one’s opinion at a church meeting into the form of a motion when it is obvious there are several people present who still do not agree; one would not show up at a Memorial Day parade in a costume; one would resist the temptation to take, as seconds, the last piece of lemon meringue pie at a church supper; and, finally, one would not call the town moderator a liar during town meeting.
I have been witness to each and every case of misjudgment listed above. No doubt, I’ve committed similar ones myself. Probably, at one time or other, everyone has.
Actually, I guess the moderator to whom I refer, Robb Sagendorph, founder of Yankee Publishing Inc. (and my uncle), was not exactly called a liar. Rather, he responded to some criticism from the floor by saying angrily, “Ben, do you mean to call me a liar?”
The retort was, “No, Robb, I don’t. But, ain’t you?”
The laughter that followed throughout the town hall diffused any potential problem. Laughter seems to have a way of doing that … So I’d say that’s probably the most important “do.”