NY Bureau Chief Infected With North Idaho Bug
by Patricia Neill
ROCHESTER, NY--I had the opportunity to visit the Idaho panhandle over the 4th of
July weekend. What a gorgeous part of the country! I loved the tall, green trees,
the long, rippling grasses, the pastures and meadows dotted with horses and cattle,
the rush of the rivers, the deep blue of Lake Coeur díAlene, the mountains, the
Rathdrum prairie. Everyone I met was kind, decent, and friendly. Very friendly--
everyone smiled and said howdy and stuck around to exchange a few words of
pleasant conversation, enjoying the moment of human companionship. How very polite
and oldtimey everyone was! Surely you live in Godís own backyard ....
My visit was an especially wonderful surprise since all my New York friends had
warned me that Idaho, particularly the north, was chock full of neo-nazis,
militias, gun-owners (gasp!) and the like. I was warned to be very careful, as if
New Yorkers had the collective idea that simply going to Idaho could infect
visitors with the dangerous-political-extremist bug and drive them into holing up
in compounds or something.
However, upon my return to New York, I immediately noticed a different kind of
problem. I was indeed infected with what I can only call the Idaho infection!
Since I returned, Iíve become much more civil and relaxed. Iíve been smiling and
waving to everyone, saying hello on the streets and passing the time of day,
chatting with everyone about the weather and how fine it's been, etc.
In general Iíve become almost as nice and polite as North Idahoans.
How horrible! This is downright dangerous. I could be *killed* by being so
friendly and open and relaxed, leaving myself vulnerable to other peopleís nasty
tempers. Rather than being cautious, wary, and suspicious, Iím smiling and talking
to folks as they sit on their porches in the afternoon sun. I even stopped my car
completely so that a mother with two small tots could cross the street at a walk
instead of a dead run--and all the cars behind me began to honk and people to yell
and curse. Surely you can see how easily one could end up in trouble here in New
York with this nice behavior--behavior that went out of style sometime during the
60s, when we took on the notion that crude, rude and boorish behavior was cool and
sophisticated. What in the world am I to do now? How long will this infection
Doesnít your state realize what problems this Idaho infection could cause people
from other parts of the country? How am I supposed to deal with ornery, harried,
too-busy-to-be-nice New Yorkers now that Iíve caught the bug?
Worse yet, Idaho doesnít even have a quarantine for this contagious attitudinal
disease. No quarantine, so I was free to return to my own mean streets and thereby
am infecting others with my new cheery, congenial self. I canít help but notice
that other people coming in contact with my smiles and friendly words are also
starting to exhibit the symptoms of the Idaho bug. Theyíre laughing. Theyíre
smiling. Theyíre being mannerly and even courteous.
The potential for this viral form of civility to spread all over the country
should be apparent. Why, what would happen to America as we know it in the 1990s
if everyone caught this plague? Think of the potentially disastrous consequences
if all Americans became as respectful and considerate as Idahoans. What problems
it could cause! People being nicer to each other might eliminate the entire mental
health industry, resulting in a huge loss of employment for those in the mental
health provider community, for instance. Or with all this friendliness going
around, people might decide that they enjoy spending time doing things with each
other and quit watching TV and buying lots of useless junk made in China.
What, in fact, are you and your state going to do about this? Are you going to
take responsibility for this?
I have a few suggestions. You could put signs at the borders of Idaho:
"Warning! Friendliness germs are everywhere. Use appropriate caution when speaking
to Idahoans." You could have your stateís Surgeon General or the weather bureau
issue Severe Politeness Warnings. You could insist on quarantine, so that infected
visitors would have time to rest and get over the infection before they return
home and give the kindliness bug to everyone around them.
Or maybe you could bottle it and ship an entire batch of the Idaho Infection to New York.
Maybe we need a good epidemic.
Your New York Bureau Chief