A few years ago, we were driving off on vacation with the fam in the minivan. Once we got past the malls our wife let out a huge sigh. “This is the furthest I’ve been over the bridge in six months,” she said. This was an exception during a particularly busy time, but it does serve as an example of how insular our little burg can become. Our isolation can lead to misunderstandings as our habits and customs do not always track with what those on the outside would consider “normal” or even in many cases “particularly sane”.
As a public service The Clam offers a short list of five things we do here and nowhere else. Take note if forced to interact with people from further away than Exit 14.
1. Carry Dunkins Cups Everywhere When we would do a thing called “stay out late” we once bore witness to an altercation between two drunken swains on lower Main Street. These dudes were swearing at each other, puffing out chests, offering threats of physical violence and eventually one of them took a poorly executed swing. The guy on the receiving end of the punch dodged it and put other guy in a headlock and they did that intoxicated man-hug shirtgrab deal that passes as a fight amongst the surpassingly inebriated. What made this so incredible to watch was the one guy who skillfully kept his Dunkins upright throughout as if it were positioned in the center of an invisible gyroscope. Of all the times you want two hands free, you’d think a streetfight would be it, but no. Not here.
In Gloucester it is perfectly socially acceptable not just for sidewalk brawlers but for attendees of any event large or small to perpetually clutch a Dunkins in the free hand: A pallbearer, best man at a wedding, a mohel, the defendant at the arraignment, everybody sips coffee at all times. It should be noted this is not cool in the outside world where commuters and patrons are socially allowed to have active beverages, but everyone else is expected to be able to go an hour or so without a regular with two sugars.
2. Operate a Free-For-All-Rotary With Minimal Signage Every time we turn from the left lane in Grant Circle toward Blackburn we check the car to our right for telltale ‘out of town’ hallmarks such Yankees stickers or lack of duct tape in order to gauge if they will actually turn right or not. We live in a constant fear of a ‘sweeper’ one of those fools with the erroneous belief they have the right to just carelessly amble around the rotary from the right hand lane.
The law is on our side, but in the outside world a two lane rotary merging with a two-lane road is a traffic rarity, like car-swallowing sink holes outside of Florida or a Prius in Texas. You’d think there’d be a sign or something, but no. On the plus side this is not a bad intro to the Gloucester experience in general.
3. Park Frigging Everywhere On sidewalks, up to the ends of intersections, on crosswalks and in front of curb cuts for wheelchairs and strollers (where they exist), in front of driveways if you are only ‘going to be a minute’ and in fire lanes. We have dear friends who live next to East Gloucester School and they regularly come home from work unable to park because strange cars are parked in their actual driveway in front of their house. At the Temple downtown people just straight up park in the private, posted lot and stroll on into the Y. Once one of the folks there went out to tell a guy that the parking is for members only and the guy punched him. Yes, seriously. The thought process that must have been something like: “I believe the private, religious organization in whose marked lot I have left my truck is obliged to provide me with parking to the point where I will physically assault someone.” In other places you park in parking lots or marked spaces and there is resident-only parking on the side streets. In Gloucester we’d park on your grandmother’s grave if it meant a better position in line at George’s.
4. Yell at Other People Rather Than Just Walk Over and Talk to Them Everywhere else in the world yelling at someone is an effort to warn them of consequential and immediate danger or to signal that you are ready to commit an act of tremendous violence upon their person. Not so here. When we lived downtown we were surprised to find that many people on one side of the street would have long, shouty but otherwise banal conversations at all hours of the day and night with people on the other side:
FIRST GUY, YELLING LIKE A SPARTAN WARRIOR: “Dude, I saw youah brotha yestaday, he was with that chick Stacey.”
SECOND GUY, SHRIEKING AS IF PASSING A KIDNEY STONE: “Ah, shit no, really? I thought she had a order on him?”
FIRST GUY, POSSIBLY ENGULFED IN FLAME: “Naw dude, they were togethah.”
SECOND GUY, LOUDER: “Ah shit. Hey, you got a cigarette?”
FIRST GUY, SUBDUED BUT STILL LOUD: “Yah dude, I’ll come ovah.”
In other parts of the world it is considered polite to cross the street in order to discuss the various chicks with restraining orders against one’s brother.
5. Refuse to Engage in Any Transaction Until it’s Determined ‘Who you are’ This one is weird. You try and engage a local business or service provider and nothing can happen until they figure out where you fit in the great scheme of things. “Who are you again?” they’ll ask. They don’t want your name, they want your pedigree. “Oh, I’m related to the so-and so’s, the one’s who live out by such and such, my uncle is that guy with the thing who used to have the place on…” This is a totally normal way to interact with people in Gloucester. It’s like you are a Viking noble proclaiming your right to the throne: “I claim this seat as Sorgen, son of Galden who won the battle at Borggen Fijord, Grandson of Troddggenn who added consonants wantonly to his last name after sinking the Saxon fleet in the Sea of Blugregnerennn with his kinsman my great uncle Glennnn of the many ‘N’s’ at…”
Most places you can just give them a valid credit card and they’ll do business with you.
We hope this has been helpful.
You forgot to mention how it’s perfectly acceptable in Gloucester to slam on your breaks in the middle of Main Street and hang out there, accruing a line of cars behind you, while you have a chat with whomever you happened to see walking down the street. Besides that, pretty darn spot on.
I’m from Gloucester and live in Williamsburg, VA. My neighbors in Williamsburg yell conversation as well. I guess its a small town thing. Only the locals perform this feat. When I visited my mother in Gloucester, the voices of people in the next house would float into her apartment and you could make out the whole conversation. Gloucester locals speak in loud clear voices. They have nothing to hid
There is no way you are going to keep this shit up. You are shooting your wad and it’s all downhill from here. I hope I am wrong but meanwhile, before your clam flames out, two things:
1) Sport Horse speaks in caps and displays a sentence structure similar to the old Indian in “Little Big Man” and Obi Wan before they both go to not die. Is SPORT HORSE GOING TO QUIT YELLING now that the Bruins are playing golf? OBE WON KEMOSABI WANT TO KNOW BEFORE RAINS COME.
2) I agree with all five things that Cape Ann Islanders do but could you tell me one additional island conundrum? Why are they so damn polite to cars pulling into traffic? I like it but even after noticing it back in 86 before the ball went between Buckner’s wickets I am still almost rear ending the fisherman in front of me who slammed on their brakes to wave in a car pulling in from Centennial Ave onto Washington in front of George’s.
SPORT HORSE ALWAYS TYPE IN ALL CAPS. HAVE NOT GREAT VISION, NEED TO SEE WHAT I WRITING.
A horse, visually handicapped, it all makes sense now. And the typing with hooves, my mistake, you’re doing great. Too bad you can’t do the Mister Ed thing because now you could just talk to Siri. “What are you doing in the back of my stall Wi-i-il-lbur?”
AFTER MUCH THOUGHT RUBBER DUCK LOVE SPORT HORSE. AFTER READING SPORT HORSE RUBBER DUCK WALKS AROUND SPEAKING IN CAPS AND SHORT SENTENCES. IMITATION SINCEREST FORM BLAH BLAH.
SO, WHAT TO DO ABOUT SUB 200 SOX HITTERS?
Shoot, just read Janelle’s comment and she stole my one added idea. It’s a combo thing. You need to let someone into traffic if you know them and since you know everyone then everyone needs to be let in and that person needs to be chatted with more than just a wave but how’s it hangin’ and all.
I really wouldn’t change a thing except maybe a sign warning the off islanders of this shit before you slide off the bridge into Granite Circle.
#5 is true for the Originals, and they mean it. I’ve worked in other small towns before coming to Gloucester, and while it might be a small town thing, folks here are pretty bald about it.
The first customer I rang up on my first day of work at the Glass Sail Boat in 1994 asked where I was from. When I said Danvers, the person said, “No, WHO are your parents?” I later noticed in the following weeks that OTHER people, seemingly unrelated to my questioner, asked me things at the cash register that amounted to followup questions, including impartially toned inquiries on my marital status. One person actually said to me, ‘you won’t last’.
It seemed to me at the time that perhaps the school committee meetings or youth sports boosters clubs were devoting a segment of time each week to vetting and compiling my answers. I think eventually I was permitted access to Gloucester style commerce, as I have ‘lasted’, at least so far.
Laughing so hard! We’re from the Chicago suburbs but have visited our best friends in Gloucester several times. This brings back great memories of good times in Gloucester!
Reblogged this on fortytwoseventy and commented:
I totally agree with this!!!
dont forget to wave to EVERY SINGLE DAMN BOAT as you drift down the ‘squam drinking your bud heavy
Have you ever noticed that some residents of Gloucester are ‘open carriers’, but they use filet knives instead of guns?
As I was reading this entry I couldn’t help but think the exact same list could be applied to Haverhill. While I’m from Groveland, I married a Haverhill girl (from the acre, pronounced akeah), thus I have lived the very same list.
Reblogged this on jaynelegendre.
I’ve only been here a year and a half or so, but we haven’t been asked who we are related to, yet. Maybe we’re just so obviously out of towners.
Wait, how long do you have to live in a place before you’re no longer an out of towner?
It depends on the individual, but generally 35-40 years.
I thought you needed a birth certificate with Addison Gilbert on it. That’s how it worked in Woods Hole. Born there or tourista, the house you live in is named after the family who lived there 100 years ago and you’re just a squatter.
Oh My God…so funny and again, spot on!!!!!!!! Keep it up, this stuff is fantastic.
Hi, you guys are hilarious! Listen you forgot something that only happens in Gloucester. It’s how people pick each other up in their cars. They drive up and lay on the horn until the person they are picking up comes out of the house. If you live near someone who gets picked up a lot, the constant beeping can be crazy. No one parks and goes to the door. Beeeeepppp
ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh alll the time