I’m working on my October attitude.
I should have a good one but I don’t. Which doesn’t make sense if I’m going to be logical about it.
I live in New England, the most beautiful place to appreciate the Fall. The air is crisp, the sun is strong, the birds sing heartily, and jewel-colored leaves fall from the trees. We get to go apple-picking and pumpkin-picking and spend every weekend at a different fair. And we have Salem, Massachusetts, home of the witch trials, home of Haunted Halloween, which amounts to four fun-filled weeks of spooky activities.
One might consider me particularly lucky since I don’t only live near Salem, the mecca of witch museums and reenactments and fortune tellers and parades and midnight spook tours, I live less than a couple of miles from the center of the city, the epicenter of Halloween, the place to be in October.
That, my friends, is where “one” would be wrong. That, my friends, is where tourists and potential tourists do not appreciate the perspective of the local.
The town where I live is a peninsula. If you aren’t traveling by boat, there are only two ways out of town, and to get anywhere that I go during my daily life, one of those two routes, the only way to get where I am going, is through Salem. Fun-filled, tourist-filled, costumed crazies-filled, traffic-moving-at-the-speed-of-sludge Salem.
During the month of October, everything I do takes an extra twenty minutes. Each way. On a good day. Early in the month. Usually before dawn.
I may exaggerate a little, but imagine knowing that every time you leave your house for the next thirty days, you will have to sit in constant traffic, follow cars with unfamiliar license plates braking every two seconds and not turning when their blinkers are clearly indicating an upcoming turn, and dodge people wandering through the streets as if the streets were sidewalks or boardwalks or open fields.
You may be a better person than I am. A less tense one. Somebody who feels like they have all the time in the world to do the things they have to do and want to do. If you are, can we switch personalities for the month?
Knowing the whole personality switch is not a likely option, I’ve decided to approach this October from a new angle. I’ve decided to accept the truth of my normal October experience. I’ve decided to try to recall the joy we experienced back when my kids were young and we visited Salem in October with their Girl Scout troops or their friends or visitors from out of town. I’ve decided, when I can, to pretend that I am not a local.
Today was my first day of attitude adjustment. My daughter had a soccer game at 4 pm at a school that is normally a half an hour from my house. At twelve-thirty, I headed into Salem.
First stop, Starbucks. Coffee in front of me, I spent an hour and a half reading and writing and listening to the conversations of people with accents, speaking different languages as they entered and exited the shop. Despite the continuous inflow and outflow, I managed to get some work done.
At two o’clock, I put my work back in my car, refilled the meter with coins, and walked into the heart of the city. I didn’t have enough time to spend participating in the activities offered but I did have the time to scan the area, take a few photos, and to think about what my options were for things I can do later in the week or next week when I take on the role of tourist, something I intend to do.
Walking through Salem is a very different experience than driving through Salem in October. It was a sunny day, people were smiling, everything was colorful and alive and full of excitement. I could feel myself getting into the spirit of the season, against all expectations.
The ride out of Salem and to my daughter’s game was less stressful than usual because I’d let myself enjoy a little of what the city is all about. The drive back at 6 pm was not quite as low-key but still, some of the calm from earlier made me snap at drivers a little less and sing to the music on the radio instead of finding the choice of songs and the DJ talk an additional annoyance.
Will I ever be happy about the added time and frustration to every trip I make during the month of October? No. But, do I think it is possible that I will find some pleasure in my visits into Salem, providing some balance for the irritation I can’t help but feel when I drive in and out of town? Yes.
I live in a pretty great place. All my belly-aching about the month of October does nothing for me except to make an annoying situation much worse. So I will try to make the best of it. No promises that I will become a better person as a result. Hopefully, though, I will smile a little bit more and not feel compelled to add to the town-wide complaining about Salem in October.
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