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It was quite a few years ago that some outfit somewhere came up with a list of the average family incomes in each of the 50 states. Maine didn't fare too well and came out 50th out of the 50. What made it even worse was that Mississippi managed to edge us out, sliding into 49th place. That was pretty bad because prior to that we could always count on Mississippi to be worse off than we were.
Anyway, when asked why we did so poorly, some official in Augusta said that a lot of Mainers don't tell the truth when asked about their income because they don't think it's anybody's business how much they make.
That's just human nature. Most of us probably make more than we tell the government and less than we tell our friends.
Ask a lobsterman how his season is going and he's likely to say, “Worst season in memory. I'm barely making enough to buy gas and bait.” We won't find out until later that it was a record-breaking season with over 60-million pounds of lobster harvested.
So I agree with that official who said that here in Maine most people don't like to give out too much information where their livelihood is concerned, least of all to some meddlesome official or prying reporter who's going to plaster it all over the local paper. Next thing you know, the television crowd gets wind of it and they'll be coming down to the dock for some pictures and an interview.
I was amused recently to read a newspaper article that was going on and on about how the tourist season wasn't doing as well as some think it should. Where are the tourists, the reporter's article asked. The question was followed by interviews with various people asking the same question. I didn't read the whole thing, but I didn't have to. Here's what it would say.
A hot dog vendor - a tourist barometer if there ever was one - would complain that in a normal tourist season he shouldn't he wouldn't be able to waste all this time talking to a reporter because he'd have customers lined up waiting for hot dogs, soft drinks and chips.
“Worst season in memory,” the vendor would say. “I've never seen anything like it. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with all these hot dogs if no tourists come along to buy them. I'll probably have to throw them out or feed them to my own dog.”
Next the reporter probably talked to the owner of a motel or bed and breakfast in some fashionable oceanside resort who will say: “In a normal season my 'no vacancy' sign goes up around Memorial Weekend and doesn't come down until well after Labor Day. But this year I've worn myself out putting it up and taking it down. I shouldn't have to do that.”
Right. Maybe all the tourists are going to Mississippi this summer instead.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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