Service of Stress

November 7th, 2011

Categories: Anger, Courtesy, Customer Care, Stress


As a Manhattanite born and bred I couldn’t help hearing the myth about how nasty, brusque and rude we all are and how pleasant, cordial, and kind country people are. So I’ve always bent over backwards to disprove the former, and I’m ready with an “Aha!” when I find instances that invalidate the latter.

Last weekend’s storm gave me fodder for some “Ahas!” [I took most of the photos in today’s post at our house last Sunday morning, after the storm. The poor old tree at the top belongs to a neighbor.]

Huge limbs and entire trees littered roads after an early, heavy, deep Saturday snow did its damage, lending credence to the emergency status declared for Dutchess County. [In Connecticut, there are still 50 thousand homes in the dark over a week later.]

Only one lane of a two-lane main road was open as crews hadn’t yet had time to clear the debris, so there were lines of cars on either side waiting a turn to pass.

I stopped to let the other lane of traffic go by as the lane I was on had gone through for quite some time. A car behind me swept by and dashed through the tight corridor, acting nothing like a country gentleperson, more like a hopped up brat.

Once the opposite lane emptied out, I started to negotiate the tight open spot when from over the hill came an aggressive jerk who accelerated as he saw the situation, missing me by a hair. I just had time to back up and out of his way.

stormhalloween2011-004smallMonday morning we already knew that we would be in busses for the first lap of the trip to the city. Temperature was 23 degrees and there was ice all over the parking lot. Two busses with drivers were there but they let us stand in the cold. When they finally opened their doors, we asked to put our suitcases in the busses’ belly. “Can’t unlock it,” was the sour response, forcing us to struggle up narrow stairs and the aisle lugging our things in a vehicle designed to hold people and briefcases.

As three giant busses arrived at the station where we normally change trains, a train pulled out of the station. Once the passengers from four stations had hung out on more ice on the open platform for 15 minutes, I meandered over to a stationmaster I’d just noticed.

stormhalloween2011-006smallHe was brave to be out there with us and I soon learned we were finally in good hands. I asked him when our train was coming, figuring it had been delayed. He mentioned a time that was an hour away. I then asked if the train that pulled out just as the “connecting” busses arrived at the station was the train to NYC. Answer: “I apologize.” He did help out best he could by getting a train to the station 20 minutes early so we could be warm and dry while we waited for departure.

There were other similar smart thinking people in the aftermath. On Sunday morning we had a welcome breakfast at the diner in town. The diner had no electricity so there was neither heat nor light but a generator worked a stove. Eggs on paper plates and coffee in paper cups tasted delicious. Adjacent towns had no such luxuries. In one, early Monday, national chains were locked tight: Not a drop of joe to be had.

City people have enormous stresses year ’round simply to get to work on overcrowded subways and busses in rush hour. Country people felt stresses last weekend. Many of us had barely gotten over the costly stretches of no electricity during Hurricane Irene. Does nastiness and recklessness happen as a result of stress,  poor upbringing or what?


6 Responses to “Service of Stress”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    There are as many reactions to stress as there are people, and possibly less adverse behavior in the country because of a smaller population. By the same token, there seems to be more good will in the city, which must come as a result of greater numbers. Late last week, when struggling with a suitcase from Penn to Grand Central Station, at least three Galahads, at various intervals, spontanously sprung out to help. This is the most recent of a lifelong train of similar incidents. Personal experiences vary.

    During the two recent losses of power in our building, people were checking out sick or elderly neighbors. Stress of this nature usually brings out the best in most people, regardless of area.

    Stress brought about by other factors, job, money and etc., is another issue, and brings out a rainbow of reactions.

    Good or bad, stress has a permanent place in society. Best thing to do is either enjoy it and use it to ones advantage, or learn how to handle it. Then there are those who are unable to manage. That’s why there are police departments and psychiatrists.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I wish your neighbors lived near us!

    Impatience may be part of what’s wrong with people who treat strangers rudely or without consideration. Everyone is used to having information in a second, to get where they are going in a jiffy. So why should they wait in line for someone trying to be polite? Who cares if they are almost out of control on wet, icy roads? You are so correct that we need police departments, although one would think that as grownups, people might act like them and not need a traffic cop to stand in the middle of a country road because a tree is taking up half of it.

    Without electricity, there were plenty of towns with no traffic lights. I hope that the self-centered jerks I came across didn’t go to these towns.

  3. EBaecher Said:

    After living here in Dutchess County for 21 years the “locals” still consider me as the “guy from Westchester.”

    The so called stress-free environment of the Fishkill area is full of small town rivalry and venom. Yes, if lost, and I ask for directions, the reception will probably be more pleasant here than it would be in the metropolitan area, but usually followed by under breath derogatory comments when I’m out of earshot.

    Nationwide I feel that New Yorkers in general are known as short, blunt and to the point. I find it better to know where I stand with someone at the moment than rural hospitality where I do not.

    Stress? I think it is self made.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I had to laugh at your comment about “locals.” Three candidates for today’s election dropped over to our house the other Sunday. They were going door to door. This is the first heated election in a long time between the locals and not so locals in that most of the locals are supporting the incumbents and many of the weekenders and those who have lived in the area 50 years or less, the other.

    On entering the house, one of them said, “Now who owned this house before you?” I told him the name. But we’ve lived in the house over 16 years! It was not a question you’d hear that much if at all in NYC. I guess we have a different sense of time in the city.

    Sure stress is self-made. But when it affects others, then it becomes other people’s business.

  5. Hester Craddock Said:


    Following up on your comment about the candidates and political situation in your town, I voted this morning in the local election being held in a similiar country town. I don’t normally vote in local elections as our town is affluent and heavily Republican. The same local group of candidates gets reelected each time by wide margins, but this year’s election was supposed to be different, very close, and the lead up to it has been unusually acrimonious. A single vote could make the difference between winning and losing for the candidates.

    Essentially, the forces pitted against one another, like in many towns similar to ours, came replete with overtones of various prejudices. The one block is made up of people who have lived there for years, very conservative, very republican, very Catholic and very small business middle class. The other is made up of perhaps more people who did not grow up in the town and don’t live there full time, is far more conservationist minded, somewhat more liberal, certainly better educated, more sophisticated and worldly, considerably less Catholic and from generally well-to-do, to big business very rich.

    As an outsider, having only lived in the town 20 years, given the negative campaigning by both sides building up to the election, I dressed shabbily and inconspicuously and was ready for serious hostility when I went to the polling place. When I got there, there were no parking places, and this is a small town. I had to park three blocks away. To my astonishment, I found the place full of all sorts of people – far more of them than ever show up for a national election. But to my even greater astonishment, while there was real excitement in the air, everyone, seemingly genuinely, was being extremely pleasant to everyone else.

    An atmosphere of “goodwill to all” was the last thing I had expected! It was truly refreshing.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The town fathers, mothers and children know about attracting more with honey than growls and grumps. Smart. Wish the people in my town who drive like hooligans endangering others could live and learn from those you saw today at the polls. Guess they all know that after the “fight” they have to work and live together tomorrow morning, meet each other at the pharmacy, fix the plumbing or electricity or sell a piece of hardware or a gift to an opponent.

    You described a bunch of people all of whom are employed, whether they are middle class or super rich. No wonder they feel no stress and can be charming! I wonder who the unemployed in town voted for? Maybe they stayed home.

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