FEATURED COLUMN by John McDonald: There’s no accounting for it

By John McDonald

As they say down at the Moxie plant, “There’s no accounting for taste.” Hey, speaking of Moxie, have you heard of the coffee shop in Portland that’s now serving a drink called a “Moxi-chino?” Sorry, I digress.

When it comes to some food — like a plate of sushi or a pile of pigs feet — what is it that makes some folks say they just can’t get enough of it, while another group of equally sincere folks say with equal fervor that they’d rather starve than eat such stuff?
Over the years, I’ve often scratched my head and wondered how there can be so many different responses to one thing. Writing for various newspapers over time, I’ve done lots of stories on all kinds of subjects. In the process of writing these stories, I’ve asked witnesses to describe simply — in their own words –what they saw or heard. You would not believe the responses. Well, maybe you would believe them, but I often didn’t. You’d think these people were in different time zones instead of standing right next to each other watching as a single event unfolded before their eyes.
When it comes to the columns I write for this space each week, it’s the same thing. You’d never know that two readers reading the same column could come up with such different responses, but I suppose that’s what makes life worth reading about in the first place. That’s what eventually feeds things like the giant “letters to the editor” industry.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy getting your letters and emails each week and reading your comments and critiques. As you know, each week at the end of this column (space permitting) my address is given, so that you can get in touch with me. With all that having been said, I want to tell you about the response I got from my column several weeks back.
I wrote about how things have been changing here in Maine over the years. Specifically, I wrote of how we’ve gone from a place where you never had to lock your doors and protect your private property (even during tourist season) to the present state of affairs, where people go driving around the state stealing things like snowplows and shovels.
Not more than a few days after the column appeared, I received two letters about it, one from Cambridge and one from Monmouth. Those two writers differed from each other by about 180 degrees.
Anita wrote:
“Your article this week about taking what isn’t yours made me laugh. We’ve been having a problem with a small ditch that we’ve been filling over the years with rocks from our fields. Three times now we have had cars or trucks back right up to the ditch to help themselves to all the rocks. It’s like they don’t have a clue that maybe they were put there for a reason. With our suggestion that they put them back, they move on. The good Lord willing, we’ll fill that ditch some day – if people will leave our rocks alone.”
I hear you, Anita! Not only did she agree with me wholeheartedly about how private property isn’t as safe as it used to be, she provided a fine example. I don’t know about you, but when a pile of rocks in a ditch can’t be left alone anymore what is our beautiful state coming to? Not that this excuses anybody, Anita, but lately I have noticed a lot of beautiful stonewalls around Monmouth.
Feeling pretty good about myself, I then opened the letter from Dianne in Cambridge. Like I said, she read the same column but managed to come up with an all together different view. Unlike Anita she was not amused with the column.
She began:
“Generally, I enjoy your column, but this one about nailing things down really got me. How do you think we recycle things here in Maine? Ask any Mainer about some of his favorite lawn pieces and chances are you’ll find he ‘appropriated’ them at one time or other. Isn’t there enough to complain about, enough to share, without you adding another straw to the camel’s back? Don’t stir up the hornet’s nest, huh?”
How about stirring up the hornet’s nest with that straw from the camel’s back?
Now that column may not have solved the problem of people going around snitching things, but I sure got people like Anita and Dianne thinking about the problem, and that’s all I set out to do in the first place.

John McDonald is a storyteller and the author of five regional bestsellers, including “A Moose and a Lobster walk into a Bar”and “The Maine Dictionary.” Contact him at maineauthorjohn.mcdonald@yahoo.com or call 207-240-8324