By Ross Markman
I know it sounds strange, but it's tough adjusting to politeness.
Not my own, but others'.
You see, where I'm from, common courtesy is asking a person which finger you'd like to see rather than simply flipping them the obligatory bird.
You think I'm kidding?
Case in point.
My second day in Havre, I was driving behind a guy going what seemed to be 6 mph. Growing tired of crawling along Highway 2, I layed on my horn twice.
Back home, in Pennsylvania, one of three things would have happened:
The driver ignores the horn and keeps driving at the same speed.
The driver rolls down a window, and while screaming various obscenities, gives you the finger.
The driver stops, gets out of the vehicle, and approaches your car to ask what exactly your problem is (using words that would make Andrew "Dice" Clay blush).
Not in Havre.
All this guy did was stop at the next red light, turn around, smile and wave, as if to say, "Hey, nice to see you. Have a great day."
This befuddled me.
But you know what? It's kind of nice.
People in Havre smile and say hello, people that I don't even know. They seem to take pride in simple manners and decorum.
It's almost contagious.
One of the reasons I moved here from the Philadelphia suburbs was to get away from the hustle and bustle and hurried life of the East Coast.
Could life get any less rushed than in Havre?
Waiting in a line in my hometown, especially at the supermarket, is just asking for a confrontation.
Shoppers jostle for position. Men and women squeeze and struggle their way to the checkout, and then, heaven forbid the cashier has to replace the receipt tape, they moan and groan that they have dinner on the stove or their kids waiting in the mini-van.
Not in Havre.
Here, people wait patiently.
Cashiers are friendly, typically making conversation as they ring up your stuff. People waiting in line behind you don't get annoyed because you're paying with a check or have 700 coupons. And in the supermarket I frequent, another person, usually a teenager, hauls the groceries to your car.
To be honest, I'm not sure what to make all of this niceness.
I'd like to be equally polite and most of the time I am.
But there are, and will be, times when my East Coast mentality takes over. Twenty-four years of traffic jams, supermarket lines and a faster-paced life can do that to a guy.
But just as I'm hoping to acclimate myself to Havre's harsh climate and sub-zero temperatures, I'm also looking to fit in and abide by its unspoken rules of etiquette.
I don't want to honk my horn and I haven't since that day.
I'll do my best to emulate the patience and appreciate the simple kindness I've been shown by most people I've met in Havre.
And if I don't, please do me a favor: Let me pick the finger.