Be Nice, You're in Oregon

Last week we took a few days away from home to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary. Just like the swallows who return to Capistrano, we return to our honeymoon town of Newport. It's about two and one half hours drive from here and the weather is the same. If we wanted better weather on the Oregon Coast I suppose we could drive to Bandon. If we wanted to drive bumper cars we could go to Seaside.

By now, you'll understand that our comfortable rut is a common thread in our lives. We like to go to places where they know our name... or places we've been to where we are comfortable and the people around us are nice.

The emphasis here is on nice. The reminder came in the form of a small piece of paper at eye level on the glass door which opens into Nana's Irish Pub in Nye Beach. It said quite simply in small print, “Be nice, you're in Oregon.”

My first reaction was to get the giggles. I loved the idea behind the message. I hope it didn't hurt the feelings of the folks from Washington and California who were on Spring Break but if they were nice, they probably got a giggle out of it too. If they didn't like the message they didn't open the door and that's OK. Of course, the message is for Oregonians as well because most of us are nice but some of us can be real crabby and downright ornery.

I like to think that we are nice. What does that mean? I've come up with a few things which qualify. If you say hello or good morning, afternoon or evening to people you encounter, that's nice. We do this because we learned it in Mexico. Every person you meet on a sidewalk or make eye contact with will wish you a good day. We liked that idea so much that we brought it home with us. Not all people understand this so we rarely get much of a response but I think it's catching on.

It is nice if you take your grocery cart back to the store or put it in its proper place. When my daughters lived in Alaska, we discovered that people don't do that there. There are always exceptions but most people shove their carts into a snow bank and leave. Since they are used to doing it, they leave them in the parking lot when the snow is gone, too. Oh, and while we're on the subject, they weren't doing any recycling up there all those years ago. I hope that has changed.

See? I guess I'm not that nice after all. I'm a fickle Alaska basher so I'll add that Alaskan people were very friendly and welcoming. We find many of them in Oregon because we share much in common. We seem to share a lot of beliefs with Hawaiians, too. Good news here... they started a recycling program many years ago. People of both of disparate States are fiercely proud of their land and their history. Maybe that's the Oregon connection.

Oregon is politically bi-polar but is considered a blue state. We are either liberally liberal or critically conservative. There is little in between but we try to be nice to each other, respecting each other's viewpoints... or at least most of the folks I've met along the way are so. We like the open carry of permitted weapons while we are trying to save the Monarch butterfly by planting habitat. We come together and clean up our public beaches twice a year. We cherish our environment and regardless of politics, most of us will do what it takes to protect it.

We're nice because we plant trees after we harvest them. We're good at that. We put up signs to remind people who don't like the cutting of trees to show them what year the forests were replanted. There are also signs on our roads showing which families, companies, or civic groups keep the garbage on the sides of the road picked up. This is a nice way to remind people not to put it there in the first place.

In general, we are a non violent people but we love peaceful protest and free speech. It can be said that sometimes we are too nice but eventually things seem to even out. Oregonians read a lot and vote for libraries, public transportation and education. These are things we value but it doesn't keep us from complaining about what they cost.

As a native Oregonian I have done my best to practice the art of kindness since birth. I fell off the wagon a few months back and it just about did me in. I haven't forgiven myself for being a crabby old woman when I had hip surgery but I'll have to sooner or later because I'm in Oregon and I have to be nice.

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