Application to become a Mainer

Posted Dec. 11, 2009, at 9:39 p.m.

A report in the Thursday morning newspaper concerning Wednesday’s snowstorm stated that a Bangor hardware store had experienced a run on snow shovels at about the time the first snowflakes began to fall on the Queen City.

The store had sold “20 to 30 by midday” on Wednesday, a store employee said, and I’m sitting here reading that and thinking that if snow shovels were fairly flying off the store’s shelves, then flashlight batteries, candles and electric space heaters were probably not far behind, courtesy of the same crowd.

When I read these types of stories I can’t help but wonder who these people are and what became of the shovels and batteries and candles and space heaters and God knows what else they likely bought to get them through the previous snowstorm. And the one before that.

I suppose they could be simply congenital procrastinators with poor memories and poor inventory management skills, making them vulnerable on two counts: 1) They are unable to commit themselves to acquiring a snow shovel or any other implement to ward off winter until the weather gods absolutely force their hand; and 2) They forget that they bought all that stuff a year ago and it now reposes in a corner of their garage behind the unused exercise bike and the leftover plywood from last summer’s basement remodeling fiasco.

On the other hand, there’s a chance that the last-minute shovel buyers may be new arrivals just off the bus from someplace where the sun shines eternally, and preparation for winter is a concept that is beyond their pay grade to grasp.

If that’s the case — if they are, in fact, innocent rookies about to embark upon their first Maine winter — it may be time to offer as a public service an updated winterized version of the “Application to Live in Maine” that I first ran up the flagpole a couple of decades ago to wild acclaim by the masses. The questionnaire was aimed at those who desired to become Mainers, asking them to display an awareness of just what they might be getting into by, among other things, satisfactorily explaining phrases such as “all stove to hell” and “honking right along.”

It also directed them to pronounce correctly, in the presence of a bona fide Mainer, the place names “Bangor” and “Calais” and “Woolwich.” (Bonus points for applicants who could appreciate the old Maine joke about the tourist traveling through Washington County who — unmindful that the Maine pronunciation of Calais is “Callous” rather than “Cal-ay,” as in France — asks a Machias resident how far it is to “Cal-ay.” The Machias guy’s reply is vintage Down East: “About 3,000 miles.”)

Applicants were also asked to correctly cite the Memorial Day Blackfly Index for Brownville Junction and to answer this poser: “What is the all-time Maine record for staying ahead of a Massachusetts driver on Interstate 95? Give actual elapsed time, in fractions of seconds.” One respondent in my 1980s survey suggested that such a thing had never been known to happen, and he accused me of planting a trick question to see if he was paying attention. He was awarded a gold star for his perceptiveness.

If one were to rework the application for Maine citizenship today, slanting it toward a theme appropriate for the advent of a Maine winter, these questions might be pertinent:

1. Approximately how long after you shovel the snow from your driveway does the state or municipal snowplow guy come by to throw most of it back at you? What universal gesture should you make to Snowplow Guy to convey your appreciation for his thoughtfulness?

2. If it is snowing when you awaken in the morning and school has not yet been canceled, is it legal? How many dire weather forecasts does it take to spook a superintendent of schools?

3. Name two popular religions in addition to high school basketball.

4. You are removing snow from your driveway when an out-of-stater pulls up and asks if it makes any difference which road he takes to Belfast. If your reply is, “Not to me, it don’t,” do you worry that the flatlander might think you are putting on airs by using such impeccable grammar?

Applicants answering, “Not for more than two seconds, Chummy,” would be granted a conditional passport on the spot.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at olddawg@bangordailynews.net.

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