The couple in front of me were having an argument. It was impossible not to overhear them and their colorful language led me to believe they weren’t Mainers. But it wasn’t the “y’alls” that gave it away. It was the twang. The drawl. The unmistakable accent of two people from the South who were waiting in line at a packed bank in Portland. And, true to the setting, they were spatting about money.

As far as I could tell without asking them to speak up, the disagreement was over a coat the woman tried on in the Old Port. She said she could wear it in the “Blue North” and leave it for Charlotte when they went back home. The guy snapped back and said Charlotte most likely had enough damn coats and he wasn’t spending “no hundred-fifty bucks for a damn coat that looked like a zebra.”

The couple’s words were clear but like most arguments around money, it sounded like something else was the root. Probably the push-and pull of control, lopsided decision making, family-of-origin values, or other messy things I couldn’t know from one minute of eavesdropping.

“I work my hide off,” she seethed. “I put more money into the vacation kitty than you did and if I want that coat, I’m buying it. You act like your fool daddy, and I won’t stand for it. I’ll call a taxi if I have to because I’m buying that coat.”

The people around us appeared to be studying their phones and even I was starting to feel uncomfortable over this PDA (public display of altercation). Anxiously, I groaned when I saw we were still five parties deep in front of the “In Training” sign propped up next to the lollipops.

“You’re making a damn spectacle in this bank,” he said. “Go on, take a taxi if you want. You wanna waste money on a coat? You got sweatshirts. You don’t even like to be outside.” He went on with the “you gots” and “you don’ts” and the woman started to cry.

I’m certainly no romantic relationship expert, but any therapist worth the letters after their name recommends taking ownership over a personal statement. The couple’s communication would have been more effective if they used sentences starting with “I think” or “I feel” instead of heaping projected negativities on each other.

As the first person up front turned to leave the conversation reached a quiet lull. Then, like waving a white flag, the guy sighed so deeply I could see his shoulders sag and his head began shaking from side-to-side.

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“Woman, if you really want the coat, we’ll go get it, but we ain’t leaving it for Charlotte,” he said. “We just ain’t.” Instead of going in for round two, she sniffed and told him to never mind. Then, she asked for the keys and said she’d wait in the car.

Immediately, the guy took out his phone and called someone named Theo. He asked Theo to go back and buy the coat the girls had tried on earlier. The crazy zebra one, he said. The only one like it.

I have no idea how it turned out for them, but when I got home, I looked up the term “Blue North.” It means a cold, harsh wind bringing falling temperatures from the north to the Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas region of the south.

And the lesson?

Not to be a blow hard, I guess. To be kind and respectful instead. It isn’t always easy but does feel like a warm coat when it comes your way. So help each other bundle up this season. As always, thanks for reading, enjoy your meal and reach out any time.

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