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 last?
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