1. By third grade you were babysitting yourself and others.
2. You can rollerblade on a dirt road. Like a boss.
3. The first alcohol you drank was Orloff. And you liked it.
4. You’ve used a riding lawn mower to run an errand.
5. You went to school in a trailer.
Maine public schools are usually very low on funding. Students are more often than not attending classes in buildings that contain asbestos, have been flooded, or have been damaged by heavy winter weather. A popular solution is to gut a bunch of mobile homes, throw some desks and a couple whiteboards in ’em, and park ’em in the back parking lot.
6. Your extended family made up most of your high-school graduating class.
Cousins are everywhere. Seriously. You might think you met a super guy at the away game in Brewer last Friday night. You may have made out with him down on the long-jump mats. And you may have found out later from your mother that not only is he ‘that John John,’ your third cousin twice removed, but you also peed your pants in front of him at daycare.
7. You always play ‘the Name Game.’
When a Mainer meets another Mainer for the first time, the Name Game will not be stopped until both parties have found at least one person who they both know or with whom they’ve had some kind of interaction. And when found, that person will be the primary subject of conversation. Ex:
- “Do you know Nancy from Newburgh? Nancy, Bill’s girl Nancy?”
- (Silent and acknowledging nod.)
- “Don’t know her myself but in Shaw’s last week, looked like she was goin’ through anotha’ divorce.”
- “Ahh yup yup yup.”
8. You never lock doors.
No one’s more trusting than a Mainer running into the gas station to get himself a steamed red hot dog and a 6-pack of Buds. Keys are left in ignitions. Nokia first-generation car phones are left in plain view. And if something does get stolen, which is rare, it gives you something to discuss at Dysart’s for years (and years and years) to come.
9. You pack for impending snowstorms on your vacation.
10. Your grandmother shoots groundhogs from her kitchen window.
11. You put human hair in your garden to ward off deer.
12. You can have an entire conversation consisting of grunts in agreement.
13. You smile at strangers.
It’s almost creepy sometimes. Walking down a street in a small Maine community means you’ll get smiles, you’ll get ‘good mornings’, you’ll get waves from random people on the opposite side of the street. And you should expect to get stopped and asked what exactly it is you’re doing in Maine, how you like it, and where it is you come from.
Many small communities don’t get a lot of people from out of town. When they do, they want to know everything. To prove it, some Maine communities still have social sections in their newspapers. These are sections in the back that let the community know that, yes, those were indeed Dottie’s great grandchildren visiting her last Sunday. They enjoyed cucumber and cream-cheese sandwiches and a round of cribbage on the back porch.
14. You know people who’ve never left.
When a Mainer settles, they sink into the cloth of a community. Everything they need is on the land they own, in the diner they visit, or at the hardware store downtown. It’s not uncommon to meet a Mainer, of any generation, who’s never crossed state lines, or even county lines. On the account that it’s never been necessary.
15. You’re thrown into a downward spiral of rage when driving behind a Massachusetts driver.
Even if they did nothing, you consider looking at their license plate a huge inconvenience.
16. Your definition of ‘camp’ is a rundown cabin in the middle of the woods.
17. Coffee brandy is what you drink when you’re feeling fancy.
18. Your mom and all of her friends operate hair salons in their basements.
19. You wear Carhartts because it’s cold, not because you bought them at a thrift store in NYC.
20. You’ll swim in any body of water, no matter how cold, no matter how dark and questionable.
21. You measure distance in hours.
22. You know what a red hot dog is. And you’ll eat one.
23. And, of course, you survived the ice storm of ’98.
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