October 15, 2007

Stunned by the Ray of Light in the Shadows

Justin Katz

Rhode Island, where the unbidden friendliness of a stranger is front page news:

... neither motorists nor pedestrians could ignore the man in the pale blue shirt and bright white sneakers yesterday morning standing between the Providence Biltmore and The Westin Providence hotels.

Why, he wasn't asking for a thing; their befuddled faces finally began to register with the slimmest of smiles.

He was offering something.

"Good morning!" exclaimed Thad Davis to everyone around him. ...

"I had heard that people in Maine were friendly but real quiet with a dry sense of humor and that people from Boston, well I went to school with a couple kids from Boston and I think there's a certain arrogance with people from Boston."

Davis had heard little about those from the littlest state, but during his walk Thursday through downtown and Providence Place mall he came away thinking Rhode Islanders were, well, kind of glum.

"I wouldn't say they’re friendly but they're civil."

I'd have used "dour," rather than "glum," but the sad thing is that Rhode Island's treatment of outsiders deteriorates the longer they intend on staying. At least it seems that way sometimes.

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Having lived in Massachusetts, Ohio and Louisiana, I have to honestly say that this is more of a New England thing or maybe even a Northeast thing than a uniquely Rhode Island thing.

Posted by: Andrew at October 15, 2007 8:41 AM

Having lived in various places in the midwest and northeast, I'd agree with Andrew. However, there's also an urban thing going on. Urban dwellers seem to get trained to resist contact, which is understandable, given some of the characters roaming around. Chicagoians are pretty darn friendly, though, so I think the regional effect might be stronger.

I tend to say hi to people I pass on the street. Some respond positively. Some of them look a little freaked out. Maybe I'm just a scary guy.

Posted by: Thomas at October 15, 2007 9:12 AM

The only thing more unpleasant than encountering a native Rhode Islander on foot is encountering them on the road.

Posted by: Greg at October 15, 2007 9:35 AM

Actually, Rhode Island drivers merge into traffic much better than do drivers from Louisiana. Scary, but true.

Posted by: Andrew at October 15, 2007 9:49 AM
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