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September  21

Much Ado About Nothing

Richard Lavoie, whose talk last night was peppered with stories about kids not getting the unwritten social rules, would love this story, which came in from MyManMrC who blogs at The Daily Doormatt. According to MrC, this case of ATM etiquette gone awry is just another example of what he calls Me First Montclair, a special sort of mixture of entitlement and contempt for one's fellow that he thinks is geographically unique to our neck of the woods.

Here goes. You be the judge. The story actually comes from MrC's acquaintance Joy, who recently moved here from Maine.

So I went to the ATM, and there was a woman standing outside of it, away from the door, like a good 5-7 feet away from the door. And she was writing a check. And there was a woman inside the ATM, but she was leaving. So I insert my card, and go into the ATM.

The woman who had been standing outside comes up to me and says “I guess you are just in the habit of cutting people off, huh?” and I was like, “Excuse me?” and she says “Well, I was standing outside, and you just went right into the ATM.”

I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, you looked like you were busy writing a check. And the woman before you was already done, so I thought you were just waiting or something. If you want, you can go ahead (by this time I was almost finished getting my cash). And then the mean woman was like “I was standing outside being polite, waiting for her to finish.” And I was just like, “Look, I am really sorry, I misinterpreted the signals, please go in front of me now.”

So I stopped my transaction and motioned for her to go in front of me. And she was like, “No, I wouldn’t do that, I don’t want to be someone like you, someone who is the type of person who cuts in front of others…”

"That's right folks," MrC says, "See in Montclair, even if you do the right thing, admit your mistake, people are going to put it right back in your face, beacuse in Montclair, it is always 'your fault'... in Montclair, two wrongs makes one feel right."

Actually, when future civilizations write about us, they'll be able to write tomes on ATM etiquette. And maybe they'll put MrC's "Me First Montclair" t-shirts in their museums. Until then, what do you think?

September 21, 2005 in Sheesh! | Permalink


oh, so it's not just me.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Sep 21, 2005 12:07:06 PM

Reminds me of a time I had gotten of the train at Watchung Plaza and was crossing the street in the pedestrian crosswalk. I was in the middle of the street when a car came whizzing around the corner making a right turn and screetched to a stop right in front of me. The woman driving obviously hadn't seen me and was a bit shocked that she'd almost mowed me down. Nothing remarkable about that. But what happened next was pure Montclair.

As I walked away she rolled down her window and yelled, "Do you have eyes in that head?"

Posted by: walleroo | Sep 21, 2005 12:12:35 PM

“I guess you are just in the habit of cutting people off, huh?”

I would have said, "Yeah, especially with people who clearly look like they are not waiting for the cash machines."

Posted by: ccc | Sep 21, 2005 12:18:57 PM

I think rudeness is endemic to all of metro NJ, not just Montclair.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Sep 21, 2005 12:21:30 PM

As a long-time Montclair resident, I have my own theories about the snottiness/entitlement problem in Montclair. It is due in part to so many New Yorkers coming to living here. Also, there is also another factor at work - the great economic disparities between residents. It creates enormous tension.

Posted by: Black Irish | Sep 21, 2005 12:26:26 PM

I don't think economic disparity has anything to do with it. And although all of northern Joisey is rude, there does seem to be something special about the particular form of rudeness one gets in Montclair.

Posted by: walleroo | Sep 21, 2005 12:32:43 PM

Possibly the rudeness stems from a sense of entitlement, all too common these days.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Sep 21, 2005 12:37:23 PM

Speaking as a recent New York transplant (and a born and raised city girl), I have encountered a far greater sense of entitlement among Montclairions (or whatever we're called) than I ever encountered in the city. Frankly, I just think there are rude people wherever you go (although they're far less noticeable in the mid-west, if you ask me). But yes -- the sense of entitlement is great here.

Posted by: Annie O | Sep 21, 2005 12:43:45 PM

"Oh, no," I would say. "You are clearly much higher up on the food chain than I, so I insist you go first. I'll just mosey back to my car and reload."

Montclair reminds much too much of The People's Republic of Cambridge, MA. I am sure that most Montclarions are wonderful folks, but there seems to be a rabid bunch of self-inflated Lexus Liberals with VIP stamped all over them. But being a native New Yorker I can be as rude or ruder without getting too upset about it...

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | Sep 21, 2005 12:44:19 PM

Another what's the proper ettiquette topic...gas station lines. A few days ago at the Gulf station on Valley Rd. out towards Rt. 46, there were 5 or 6 cars in either direction in line to get gas. When I was at last the next car in line on my side, the car at the far pump pulled away and a car from the line coming from the opposite direction scooted out of line and popped right in. As a I sat fuming and tried to decide if I should say something about the blatant queue jumping, I was surprised when I noticed that this car actually had a Maine license plate! I decided to breathe deeply and not say anything. But I can see the combination of rising gas prices and NYC metropolitan area "me first, my time is more valuable than yours sense of entitlement, lack of patience and manners" leading to Gas Line Rage!

Posted by: gp2mtc | Sep 21, 2005 1:05:24 PM

I travel all around the country, and find people in Montclair are generally no more or less polite than 1000 other towns I've been in. I'll never forget my first trip to Seattle at the height of the grunge, Seattle is the coolest, most friendly town in the world vibe. I was only there 2 hours and I had about 3 confrontations with lunatics, one thought I had stepped in front of him and berated me for the first time in my life (being Irish) with every anti-semetic insult ever thought of.

Hell may in fact be other people, but unfortunately they're everywhere.

Posted by: montclair_is_really_crazy | Sep 21, 2005 1:06:26 PM

This JUST happened to me at an ATM. I was completing a transaction at the ATM on Claremont when a man walked in. I was so startled I said, "Excuse me, I'm not done yet." He snapped "SORRRRY!"

When I drove off he mouthed an obscenity at me.

I didn’t think I’d been rude in saying I wasn’t finished, but perhaps he heard it that way. The vestibule at the Bank of America there is quite small, and I always thought you were supposed to wait outside until the person inside was finished. Can't tell if my thinking I should have the vestibule to myself means I feel entitled to too much, or if he was being an ass.

Posted by: fyi | Sep 21, 2005 1:42:09 PM

Awesome responses folks, this is exactly the type of feedback I thought I would get from this. And just so were are all clear, I love Montclair, it is a really nice place to live(rent), but I see things everyday here that I haven't seen anyone else.

Posted by: MyManMisterC | Sep 21, 2005 1:54:20 PM

Yo, you talking to me...you're not talking to me...F-you and have a nice day

Posted by: John L | Sep 21, 2005 2:01:17 PM

I have to share a different experience that happened to me yesterday. I was walking on Upper Mountain Ave. and a car hit a pothole (they're hard to miss) and splashed a huge amount of water on the sidewalk where I was walking. Luckily, the spray went around me but it must have looked like a torrent because the woman driver stopped, got out of her car and apologized profusely. I assured her that all was well but it was wonderful that she took the time to check that I was ok. (And she is a Montclair resident!) So we're not all that bad...

Posted by: Mrs. S | Sep 21, 2005 2:02:46 PM

So this is my story- MyManMisterC wrote this about what happened to me yesterday. And I must ask anyone who reads this, or just people in the general New Jersey area- why are you so rude??
I dont think that it is just in Montclair, I think it is just a general New Jersey attitude. You dont find things like this in Maine, or Boston or the majority of places in New England, because people up there are just NICE to each other.
Why is it that everyone down here is inherantly rude!?! Would it kill you to take on a little north eastern hospitality and just realize that you are not the only person on the planet, and that the actions you take affect the people around you. My experience with that woman at the ATM nearly ruined my day yesterday because she was just so nasty. Its just so unnessisary

Posted by: Joy | Sep 21, 2005 2:15:55 PM

On the other hand...

One day I was driving looking for a parking spot. I was going slow and pulled over into a spot (remembering of course to signal), when the driver behind me honked and passed me. That really pissed me off, so I flipped him the Rockefeller salute. Then the car pulled over, and this gigantic black guy got out and started walking over the me. (I'm white, by the way.) I thought, oh shit. He came right up to the car and said, "Why'd you do that? I was just letting you know I was passing you."

I said, "Gee, you're right. I'm sorry. I shouldn't've done that."

"Okay," he says, and walks back to his car.

I had several reasons that day to feel like a jerk.

Posted by: walleroo | Sep 21, 2005 2:27:05 PM

I have to agree that some of what Joy says rings true. I travel to VT a lot and I don't recall ever encountering a rude person! I know that sounds strange, but it's true, even when I visit Boston, which is a much more densely populated city than Burlington or Middlebury. Same thing for Portland, OR, where I have family.

Also, when you walk down the street in many other cities, people cut you some slack and give you some breathing room. I mean, c'mon, I'm not a physically big person but still, when I walk around in the NY metro area, I always feel as if people are crowding me. In NYC, I've come to expect this naturally (with almost 9 million people) but it's totally uncalled for in NJ.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Sep 21, 2005 2:30:16 PM

Joy, I've been to Maine many times and I haven't noticed a whole lot of hospitality being extended towards those from the lower states. Mainers, like New Englanders in general, have their own brand of you-weren't-born-here coldness.

Now out in the Rockies, it's different...

Posted by: walleroo | Sep 21, 2005 2:30:26 PM

I'm telling you, the leash is short in a town like Montclair, especially on Valley Road in UMF (Upper Me First) on a Saturday mid morning. You add the pedestrian/shopper element to the drivers and lack of parking and it has all the makings of a Pay Per View event

Posted by: MyManMisterC | Sep 21, 2005 2:30:43 PM

But you APOLOGIZED, and he accepted your apology, and you both went on your own ways. At least the two of you were able to be nice to each other, while also realizing that one was in the wrong. And you felt like a jerk all day because you know taht your actions affected someone else. This is the key difference between you and someone who feels like the are entitled to do whatever they want.

Posted by: joy | Sep 21, 2005 2:31:52 PM

i personally stand back a little far when it comes to the ATM-

since i find when your back is turned it is a bit nerve wracking to have people up your butt

-safety wise it is a good practice and just socially, there is a personal space issue-

-however, when i am in Line it is "obvious"-i am staring at door of ATM-or holding my card in my hand while looking appropriately bored- acknowledging someone when they approach-

on numerous occassions in moncliar people have driven up-(parked with car running at a yellow curb) and attempted to jump into line-between me and the user of the ATM--each time a look is all i need to get my point across--but the boldness has always surprised me-

even in the supermarket(Brookdale Shoprite) line- i try not to run peoples ankles over like some do as if somehow this will force the cashier to move it along-

also, numerous times at Starbucks (no explaination) there is always someone lingering so close to me that the counter person thinks we are together

but i find Montclair isn't the mecca of rudeness or uppity mannerisms- it is the Tri- state area in general--people here tend to think their time is money or more important then anyone elses-
they move fast, have no patience, and truely care only for themselves--or at least act that way--

i "love" the best case of road rudeness...

your in the left lane and as the green arrow light turns- the car behind you swings out and cuts you off before the green arrow changes back to red--i become "animal" over that (Broad and Watchung) and (Broad and Bellevue)

it would be nice if people could be so but what good is it really allowing someone to ruin your day-why give them the power-misery loves company-sometimes a smile is the best revenge.

Posted by: cstarling | Sep 21, 2005 2:32:08 PM

wake up...no one is colder or ruder than a new englander when they hear a ny/nj accent. they treat us like 'outlanders'.

Welcome to NJ now get out of my way

Posted by: John L | Sep 21, 2005 2:35:05 PM

"Maine, or Boston or the majority of places in New England, because people up there are just NICE to each other. "

This has NOT been my experience. I lived in New England for 12 years. I found (and still find) the people in New England in general and Boston in particular unfriendly at best, rude and aggressive at worst. And I do mean aggressive. Little old lady drivers in Boston have flipped me off for turning left from the turning lane.

In fact, the first thing I noticed when I moved here was that people were friendly and helpful. Rude in a car, yes, but after Boston they seem absolutely docile.

Posted by: fyi | Sep 21, 2005 2:40:47 PM

Hey, I said we were a friendly bunch, I didnt say we were saints. When thousands of tourists from nj come to maine for the summer and drive like the do in jersey, talk like they do in jersey, litter, cut off pedestrians, bring their "me-first" attitudes, and bad mouth the red sox we cant just smile through it. New Englanders are friendly, but they arent about to be walked all over.
But if you show the friendliness to others that we EXPECT in new england, you will have a VERY plesurable experience. Because, in Maine, even the toll-booth and parking garage attendants tell you to have a nice day.

Posted by: joy | Sep 21, 2005 2:41:21 PM

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