|"If you cut in line at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, others may think, 'What a jerk,' but they’ll also think, 'He’s clearly desperate for fine cheese.'"|
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Boston is the capital of the Rude Belt. Over the years various causes of the city’s exceptional rudeness have been proposed, everything from a Puritan hangover to the cowpath-based road net. One underrated factor is the feeling of impunity that comes of living in a place full of overeducated types who are unlikely to drag you out of your car and beat you to death for giving them the finger. They might scheme to deny you tenure, but that’s about it. Lack of fear of serious consequences emboldens people around here, especially the overeducated types, to behave like savages in public.
But, whatever the causes, everyday bad manners alone does not put Boston squarely in the heart of the Rude Belt, which extends down the East Coast to Washington and inland no farther than Altoona, Pa.. A more subtle defining Rude Belt trait is how you act when you’re trying to convey genuine urgency and importance to your fellow citizens.
By way of counterexample, take Chicago, where I grew up, well west of the Rude Belt. Chicago’s a bigger and rougher city than Boston but it’s also a place where you look strangers in the eye and say hello, and in Chicago you signal urgency with excessive politeness. If you burst into a White Castle and say something like, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to make a scene and I’m sorry to disturb you, but I was just in a car accident and I need some help,” the people there will take your formal tone as an indicator that you mean business.
Now, here in Boston you would take a different approach. In a similar situation, you’d burst in and say, “What’s the matter with you? Some idiot crashed into me and I need some help right now! What part of ‘get off your ass and give me a hand’ don’t you understand?” And you’d curse at least five times in the course of saying that. Rude Belters would be thinking, “If this wasn’t serious, he wouldn’t be so rude. We better get help.”
The same logic applies in non-emergency situations. If you don’t use your turn signal on Comm Ave or you cut in line at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, others may think, “What a jerk,” but they’ll also think, “She must really need to get where she’s going,” or “He’s clearly desperate for fine cheese.” As Rude Belters, they’ll see you as a person of substance to be reckoned with and even grudgingly deferred to.
We could all be a little more polite as we go about our business in Boston. But next time you have an emergency on your hands, remember that in the Rude Belt turbo-rudeness works like cultural lights-and-sirens. You can politely bleed to death, or you can be a jerk about it and live.
grew up in upstate New York so when transferring from SoCal to Boston area I thought no problem... im east coast. i can handle it. i guess 15years in SoCal will change a person. I have to completely agree with Carlo. im no happygolucky guy but people here seem hell bent on jolting anyone within a 2 block radius to their personal misery. seems to be self perpetuating at that.
thanks for the warning about Carlo broadcasting every other Wednesday. Ill be sure to be tuned somewhere else. I lived many years in Chicago before moving to Boston, and was there only last month for ten days. Chicago drivers, let me tell you, are FAR ruder than those in Boston. They may not give one the finger as Carlo so crudely states it, but they are ruder in other ways. God help you if youre driving there.