2018-02-18 / Family

Fake sun, quiet sidewalks – the calm before the thaw

By JANINE TALBOT
Columnist

There is a new employee in our office. She moved from Ohio last month and started the new job a few days after she arrived. By the end of her first week in Maine she had to dig her car out from under a blizzard, risked her life stepping onto a driveway temporarily turned into a skating rink, and contracted the flu. It was a rough start and not one that has allowed her to fall in love with our lovely state quite yet.

I always thought Ohio was the recipient of frequent cold blasts and mountains of snow, but apparently Maine has the Buckeye State beat by a mile in that category. Our newest office mate claims Ohio temps felt much milder to her when she returned there after her visit to Maine for her initial interview. In fact, she has deemed that bright thing in the sky as “fake sun” when she ventures out for lunch. “No warmth,” she says. She’s right. For now.

In the true spirit of someone “from away” who has yet to experience summer in Vacationland, she came into the office one morning recently and naively asked, “Where are all the people on the sidewalks?”

She couldn’t understand why it was so quiet in the morning, probably because her previous job was in a larger city with much higher foot traffic. Those of us who work in Portland during the summer know better – this is the calm before the storm known as Tourist Season.

I explained to her that in a few months she’s going to be asking, “WHY are all the people on the sidewalk?” She thinks I’m joking.

It’s funny to watch someone else adjust to the Maine way of life. I remember when we first settled here 20 years ago, I was surprised that stores weren’t open until at least midnight. The pediatrician in town was The Pediatrician. Old Orchard Beach, a perpetual party during the summer months, became a ghost town by October. During an outdoor event in the middle of Portland my boss accidentally left her purse on a park bench for hours. Nobody touched it.

It’s true that not all is as simple and somewhat innocent as it was two decades ago. People lock their doors more often than not and purses aren’t left to fend for themselves in a crowd, yet we continue to be just a step behind the rush of the rest of the world. That’s not a bad thing.

When our family moved here, there were things I instantly loved about Maine and a few things I wished moved along with the times. Then again, a significant part of the reason we moved was because things were moving too fast in Connecticut.

In about four months the sidewalk traffic will increase, ice cream shops will reopen, visitors will begin their trek to All Things Maine, and our new workmate will be old hat at knowing her way to the mall, the beach, LL Bean and Kittery shopping outlets. In six months she will be stepping around the cruise ship crowd and waving to the Duck Tour passengers. Hopefully by then the sun will no longer feel “fake” and Maine will shine its way into her heart. At that point there will be another concern… she may not want to come back from her lunch break.

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