Bill Packard: Turn where the dead tree used to be
Whenever I can, I have coffee with a great group of guys. Coffee is really just an excuse to get together and the crowd is awesome. If you don’t have a group that you have coffee with, you should. It gives you what you need when you need it, and it does it when you don’t even know what it is that you need or if you need anything. Take a minute to let that sink in.
On a quiet day before Christmas, there were only two of us there and the other fellow was looking for candy (chocolate) for a gift. His shopping experience was less than stellar so I suggested Bixby.
He’d never heard of it and when he asked where they were, I replied that they were in the old O’Hara Ice building.
While he’s a native, he spent his career in other parts of the country, so that meant nothing to him and he shared his frustration with those kinds of directions. I gave him some current landmarks and sent him on his way.
Fast forward to the day after Christmas and we’ve got a full table when I inquire about the chocolate gift.
He shares how wonderful the visit and the product were and what a hit it was on Christmas.
Innocently, another member mentions a candy store in Camden. Candy searcher asks where that is. Innocent member says innocently, “Two floors, across from the old lok-marina.”
Candy searcher goes: “I don’t know about a lok-marina. All you guys only know how to give directions using places that aren’t there, anymore!”
Innocent member replies: ”It’s right by the first short street between Bay View and Chestnut. Where the Y used to be.”
At that point I just about fell off my stool, laughing. Everyone else was laughing at the players because while they had no idea why it was so funny, we were funny, so we were worth a laugh.
We Mainers can’t help it. People who visit here think the place hasn’t changed a bit over their lifetime, but we live changes all the time.
When you ask for directions, our default is what we remember. Sometimes, it’s a fond memory from high school or even earlier.
“That’s the house on Limerock Street that always had the best Halloween candy.”
“That’s where my first girlfriend lived.”
Sometimes, the location is related to a notable event.
“That’s where the big fire was.”
“It’s where the trailer truck spilled the chicken guts that stunk for weeks.”
More often than not, it’s just “Where Pete used to live.”
If you are new to the area, lived here a short time or moved away many years ago and recently moved back, when you get directions like these, don’t take them personally. As I said earlier, we can’t help it. We defer to the first thing that comes to mind that would help us go to that location. Unfortunately, that means nothing to you.
Be patient and ask questions. I know you just want to get where you want to go, but we’re going to need a minute or two to get into the present.
As difficult as this may be to understand, it gets worse. Many times we go back two or three events to describe a location.
“You need to turn right where the factory burned and they built the apartment house on the same corner and that blew up. It’s where Timmy Jones had a hot dog stand when he was in high school. Turn right there, go down that road for a while and the place you’re looking for is right where the dead tree used to be.”
How could you go wrong?
Here’s one more challenge that people in the area face: They don’t live in their house.
I love talking to people and finding out about them. When I ask where they live, I often make the connection to the people that lived there years ago. Only some houses qualify. I have no idea why. The house that my father built and I grew up in on Mountain Street was probably never referred to as the Packard house.
Aubrey and Dot Young’s house will always be their house no matter what.
Ham Hall’s house will always be Ham Hall’s house even though Dave Dickey has done a fantastic renovation there. I suppose and only hope that years from now when new owners make it theirs, that people will refer to it as Dave Dickey’s house.
Parker Laite’s house on Belfast Road will always be Parker’s. Walt Strang’s house is his. If you live in a house that has a deep history, don’t be offended that we refer to it as someone else’s. No offense is meant. It’s just that while we adjust to the current, we live with the memories that make this place special.
Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of BPackard.com. He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.