By Wayne William Cipriano
I was born in Connecticut, a state that holds several titles and world records. Some of them are laudable, others not so much. One in particular is surprisingly easy to forget once you’ve left the Nutmeg State, and comes rushing back as soon as you return. That title is: The Rudest Place On Earth, or, as my cousin Billy (known far and wide as the Iconoclast of Southern New England) would say “the place from which courtesy and brotherly love joined hands and ran away screaming into the night”.
When you arrive it smacks you in the face. But quite soon you acclimate and, as embarrassing as it is to confess, join right in being as miserable and discourteous to others as they are to you, sometimes on a preemptive basis! The climate of incivility is so powerful and pervasive that when you leave Connecticut for a less inhospitable locale you actually become suspicious of the motives of those who treat you respectfully. Those suspicions become more intense as the level of respectful attention increases. And a true crescendo of confusion occurs when you move from the experience of Connecticut to a life in Douglas County. The difference is not remarkable – it’s astounding!
When bank employees don’t seem to have the word “no” in their vocabulary or say “hello, it’s nice to see you” and mean it –– a Connecticut Yankee can be dumb-founded.
When a county official goes beyond their job requirements, beyond helpful, all the way to assisting a citizen to the very best of their ability, a Connecticut native will think, “What are they after?”
When a merchant smilingly accepts a return and cheerfully returns my money suggesting I might find what I need at a competitor’s store. Has this person “slipped a cog”?
But, sooner or later you come around and finally get it.
Like when you are terrifyingly stuck, half way up a hill on a road covered in sheet ice; when you cannot take your foot off the brake, let alone exit the car for fear of sliding backwards down the hill; when each time you press the accelerator the tires merely spin and the car slides sideways toward the ditch.
And, when a guy you have never seen before climbs the hill past you in his four-wheel drive truck, stops just over the crest, walks and slides down the hill to your front bumper, attaches a rope to it, crawls back to his truck using the rope, slowly pulls your car over the top of the hill, unties the rope from your bumper, tosses it in the back of his truck and drives off without a word – that’s when you finally get it and you know you are living in the right place.
When I tell stories like that in Connecticut, it’s not that they think I am exaggerating. It’s not that they think I am outright lying to them. The atmosphere here in Douglas County is so radically different that people in Connecticut who have heard these stories think I am psychotic: completely divorced from reality, living in a world of pleasant hallucinations. They just cannot get their heads around the truth that a place like my home in Missouri actually exists outside of a Chamber-of Commerce fantasy.
And yet, it does! Happy New Year, Douglas County!