Monday, October 03, 2005

Pointless, incessant barking



Now for some more pointless, incessant barking. I was driving to Waitsfield Farmer's Market on Saturday, a beautiful indian summer morning. But my daydreams about fresh corn and late season tomatoes were shattered by the bizarro driving of the guy in the Ford Focus in front of me. He crawled along at about 40, swerving all over the road. One hand on the wheel, the other - yep - holding a cell phone to his empty head. Mass plates. I pondered the word 'Masshole' for a while, and continued to ponder it while he got off the phone, sped up and started tailgating the truck in front of him.

This is the time of year Vermont gets invaded by tour buses full of bluehairs and flotillions of rental cars bearing pairs of overpaid urbanites jonesing for their country fix. The turning leaves are wonderful to behold, but the leaf peepers clog the roads, drive like idiots and, for some reason, really piss a lot of Vermonters off. We shouldn't resent them. They bring in a lot of cash - some $337 million last year, according to this story, which is nothing to sneeze at. A lot of that money goes right to the small B&Bs, restaurants and shops that depend on tourists to stay afloat. It's environmentally positive revenue, too, since this kind of tourism makes it economically attractive to keep the state clean and lands open and undeveloped.

But I think a lot of the October rage has to do with entitlement. We live here year round. We know the existential despair of stick season, when the sun disappears for a long, long time. We're here in January, shivering out into a dark morning to shovel three feet of snow off the car before driving to work. And we're still shoveling in February, March and April. We're here negotiating roads transformed to impassable rivers of potholed mud every spring, and getting devoured by mosquitos and black flies all summer long. We're living in a state where the growing season is short and the life span of a muffler is shorter. Where, as the bumperstickers succinctly tell it, you have to "moonlight in Vermont - or starve."

So when the state erupts with glorious color for a few weeks every year, we feel like we're entitled to enjoy it. And they aren't.

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