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Throughout this summer season several online readers have written to ask questions like: "Where exactly are you located, John?" I could e-mail back and say something clever like, "I'm right here, where are you?" But as a 'serious' columnist I try to avoid smart responses.
Instead, in answer to the question "Where are you?" I'm more likely to respond with something like,"Maine" since that is more or less where I am.
Several readers, who proved to be more curious than most, have written back to say they live in Texas or Montana or New York and they know nothing about Maine and then they press me for more information about this place called Maine.
To respond to inquiries like these I've been forced to do a little research on my home state. It's not that I'm ignorant of Maine, after all I'm also a radio talk show host and as such I'm supposed to know everything, right?
Anyway, I've now learned that - with an area of 33,215 square miles, Maine is the largest of the New England states. In fact if you had a mind to and could find a way to do it you could fit the other five New England states into Maine and still have room left over for six caraway seeds and a lawyer' s heart. But then why would you want to do something like that?
Being a storyteller I am often tempted to exaggerate Maine's size (who would
know?) and write that we have more like 50,000 square miles or, why stop there? How about 100,000 square miles.
So far I've avoided the temptation.
Once I included comparison figures in my reply so the reader could see that even though Maine is smaller than many states - like New York for example (area:49,576 square miles) - it's a lot bigger than the 'states' that make up the rest of the region named New England.
Our neighbor, New Hampshire, for instance, barely has 9,000 square miles of space to its name and much of that consists of huge piles of 'protected granite' otherwise known as The Presidential Range. May be that's why New Hampshire folks are always coveting their neighbor's land.
Someone from Texas (area: 267,338 square miles) recently wrote for some information on Maine and knowing that size is important - especially to Texans - I was almost reluctant to include Maine's 'size' information. I finally included the figures but I just had to add that even though Maine may seem small when judged by western standards - Montana for example (area: 147,138) - we're a lot bigger than, say, Connecticut (area: 5,009) and forget about Rhode Island (area: 1,214). Wal-Mart must have parking lots bigger than Rhode Island.
Speaking of parking lots, I also received this angry email the other day from Fred in Pownal. He writes: “John, I've enjoyed your column for years and knew I had to write after visiting the grocery store the other day. Is it my imagination or do parking spaces keep getting smaller? I counted at least 20 cars - mostly SUVs - over the white line in the store's parking lot during a recent visit.
I thought to myself, "Something should be done about this." But my problems didn't end in the parking lot, John.
I got my four items and then got in the 'express' lane. Is the phrase 'express lane' a hoot or what? Don't tell me impersonal corporations have no sense of humor.
John, there are glaciers in Alaska that move faster than your average supermarket 'express lane.'
Finally, I'm second in line in this 'express lane' and I start thinking, hey, Fred, it's only a matter of minutes now and you're out the door.
No such luck.
After watching the clerk scan all 28 of her items and carefully bag them the woman in front of me decided maybe it's time to start fishing through her handbag for some money.
I timed her, John, and she took 7 minutes just digging out the last 67 cents of her total.
Sixty-seven cents in 7 minutes! John, An Alaska glacier could slide quite a distance in that time.”
Contact John McDonald at: storytellers@maine.com.
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storytellers@maine.com