Mainers are polite – a small thing that speaks volumes. I’ve lived in seven states and Europe. There are lovely, well-mannered people in all those places of course, but here in Maine … wow!

The telltale place you see these good manners is when driving, especially in heavy town traffic. That’s right, the arena where many release pent up frustration and anger is where Mainers are at their best.

Route 1 is a good example since it goes through every small town on the coast. The traffic, especially in summer and during the holiday shopping frenzy, is bumper to bumper, leaving little room for those trying to enter the flow from side streets, or worst yet, cut across the traffic into the opposite lane. Yet Mainers pause and let them in, sometimes from both directions … at once. It is as if one driver going one way sees what the oncoming driver is doing, and they just pause as well.

I encounter it each day I drive down Main Street, any Maine Main Street, north or south, inland or coastal. No one honks either. We just wait patiently for the guy in front to see the light has turned or the train has finally passed. Believe me, when I lived in the Midwest, aggressive driving and road rage, with jabbing raised middle fingers, and angry, shouting faces, was the norm. It was traumatic. Driving in Maine, even the turnpike, is not traumatic. It can get a tad hairy, but it is not traumatic – at least not for me, an interstate-averse driver. Mainers are polite even at high speeds.

When I first arrived in Maine, I didn’t know that drivers just stopped when someone was poised at a painted crosswalk (or even jaywalking, for that matter). One day, I was standing at a crosswalk where there was an official light with that telltale red hand telling me not to walk and then a green walking person letting me know to go. I was watching that light while a lovely Mainer, who had entered the intersection, was stopping for me. I pointed to the light, he kept waving me to cross. We got into a little politeness contest.

You go first; no, you go first. Finally, the poor guy got exasperated with me and proceeded on his way a bit miffed that I hadn’t accepted his kindness. He didn’t know I was a newbie and ignorant of Maine politeness or the law or the edict from the Tourist Bureau – be nice to newcomers and visitors, they bring money!

It must be all the trees giving us extra oxygen, or space enough to breathe, or the tides that ebb and flow in perfect rhythm, forcing a temperate rhythm on us as well. The sales pitch on a welcome sign at the state line from New Hampshire says “Maine, the way life should be.”

Good manners is the way life should be lived. Thank you, please, you go ahead; no, you go ahead – and have a wonderful day.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: