Dare to Ask: He doesn't (heart) upstate N.Y.
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
It's been my sad experience that the nastiest, most quarrelsome people in the
United States are from upstate New York. Is it unique to upstate New York
culture? Albany, Poughkeepsie, Utica, Rochester: Take a chill pill.
Augustine, 41, male, Columbia, S.C.
Of course, it could be that we just don't like you.
Me, Upstate, N.Y.
M., 15, male, Rochester
Upstate New York has just as many rude people as New York City. But when you
see it Upstate, it stands out more because that's not how everyone acts.
Deb, 23, Syracuse, N.Y.
In the Northeast in general, I've noticed a "kittens in an oven aren't
biscuits" attitude toward outsiders that you don't get in the West.
Kate, 17, Twisp, Wash.
Upstate NYers are more polite, but are easily offended and vocal about
transgressions. A good representation is horn-honking: in Albany, people rarely
do it, but nearly always give the finger and yell when it happens. The cause is
a belief by upstaters that downstaters take disproportionate resources from the
Mike, 32, Brooklyn
I moved to Albany and faced the wrath of another driver. He jumped out of his
vehicle and screamed at me, for a minor case of poor driving on my part.
A., 25, male, Illinois
Longtime Monroe County historian Carolyn Vacca of the St. John Fisher College
library in Rochester got back to us quickly and kindly.
Everything is relative, she said: A person from South Carolina might find the
pace and speech patterns in upstate New York brusque, while someone from the Big
Apple might find it all very slow and laid-back.
"The people here are pretty straightforward, but it doesn't mean they don't
exchange pleasantries. They do," Vacca said. "And in terms of volunteer hours
performed, Rochester is one of the leading cities per capita. It shows that
their hearts are in the right place."
Sometimes reputations are hard to sweep away, she noted. For example, a 1957
book called "Smugtown" wasn't too flattering about Rochester, and even today
that sticks with some people.
Although upstaters do tend to feel marginalized by New York City, a more
likely reason for perceptions of coldness might be ... coldness, Vacca added.
"With our long winters, there isn't much time to be comfortable and hang out.
It's like 'What do you need to talk about, let's do it now and move on,' ... and
that climate may not be comfortable to a Southerner."
Not only that, but Southerners and Northerners often "travel in different
time zones," she said, with the former seeming to be more "backward-looking,"
reflecting on past events like the Civil War, and the latter having a lot more
energy and speed in their lives.
"The pace might put someone off," she said -- ending the conversation very
nicely with "Have a great day."
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
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