Labor Day

If you are “from away,” you may have driven past a little ritual on route 95 near the Maine and New Hampshire border. At the end of the Labor Day holiday, some local folks hang out banners over the highway’s last stretch into New Hampshire. Some are polite expressions “see you again next year.” some are less polite and express the desire that you permanently exit to New York or Massachusetts. There are mixed feelings about the dependence on tourist dollars. The income is needed, but the desire not to have a way of life and the environment swamped by the annual influx causes some conflicting emotions.
While living along the Maine coast, I always had an ambivalence to the whole thing. First, I was from New York, the ultimate “from away” location, but I was “married in” due to my wife and her family. They’d been there since before the first Census. Nobody was going to call the Capn’s son in law a Summer Complaint. I also worked the same jobs everyone else did and did not have the money and leisure that many visitors had. All this got complicated by the fact that my natural New York accent was fading over the years in New England, and I was picking up and using local English. I was not a native, but I was not a New Yorker anymore, either.
What happened one day at the boatyard where I worked illustrates the issue.
Spinney and the yard crew were especially amused when folks from New York City would take me for a local. Spinney jokingly suggested that one Brooklynite ask me how locals pronounced items. If my looks could have killed, Spinney would have dropped on the spot. But I dutifully rendered the local pronunciation of things in my most inauthentic Maine accent. I felt like a performing dog. Off to one side, the crew struggled to keep straight faces. When done, I tried to explain to them that I was from Manhattan. They laughed so hard they turned red. Afterward, I promised Spinney that I’d get even.
Spinney turned to me and said: “now you know how we all feel when they ask us how lobster is pronounced, or how we say Bar Harbor. We’ve done you a big favor Wes…you don’t ask for “kaufee” anymore first thing in the morning.”
OK, I guess he had a point.

2 Replies to “Labor Day”

  1. Let me tell you that moving from Germany to Georgia as a 10 year old, really made me an outsider. By the time I was an adult and we moved to Mississippi and Tennessee where my children were borne, I learned how to speak southern like a local and drop it as soon as I walked back in the door at home. I do understand that outsider feeling. And friends that submarine you aren’t the best thing to have. 🙁 Hope you found a way to get even.

    1. I was, and still am to an extent an anthropologist. So the entire outsider insider thing goes with the territory. But you raise a good point. Being an honorary insider only carries you so far. You are still an outsider.
      Get even? I get to write about them all now. There is nothing so sweet as getting the last word.
      Thanks for your very interesting comment!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: