For the past three or four years, Carol has been taking care of a friend’s cat when he is away. This friend have been living in North Cambridge, near Porter Square since he travels ten or twelve weeks a year, Carol has been spending quite a bit of time in North Cambridge. And when Carol was in Cambridge, I went up as often as I could to spend time with her. But soon Carol’s friend will be moving out of the country, taking the cat with him, so there will be no more cat-sitting in North Cambridge for us.
Carol had to go up to sell her books at a fair in Maine this weekend, so I took care of the cat. When I left, I gave the cat one last scratch behind the ears, and she purred and went back to sleep, and I went down and got in my car and drove away from North Cambridge. I will miss some things about cat-sitting in North Cambridge: — I will miss the cat, who is sociable, good-natured, and affectionate; and I will miss being able to walk to McIntyre and Moore bookstore in Porter Square.
But I find the overall feeling on the streets and sidewalks of North Cambridge unpleasant. People generally seem rude, and abrupt, and aggressive, and entitled. I’ll give you one particularly egregious example of what I mean: — last night I was in a bookstore, with prominent signs asking customers to refrain from cell phone use; — and yet one man talked on his cell phone for a good hour, giving someone details of a pending lawsuit in a resonant, penetrating voice. His funny round potbelly stuck out between his suspenders, and his face was unlined and unperturbed by anything around him, and his carefully blow-dried grey hair curled down from his bald head, and his accent spoke of his privilege and his expensive education and the fact that if he was from New England he had scrupulously removed any trace of regionalisms from his speech. I’m sure he was a very nice man, but as I watched him walk yet again past a sign asking him to refrain from cell phone use which his sense of entitlement allowed him to serenely ignore, my blood boiled and I resented him. In fact, I started feeling rude and aggressive myself.
Of course I know that there are plenty of polite, courteous, non-aggressive people in North Cambridge. And of all the people I know who live in North Cambridge, only one is rude and aggressive; most everyone is nice. Yet somehow the general feeling on the streets is that people who live in North Cambridge are rude. This is in distinct contrast to the feeling on the streets here in New Bedford, where I get the feeling that politeness and courtesy are the norm, in spite of the fact that I know plenty of nasty, rude, aggressive people live down here. But every time I have traveled between New Bedford and North Cambridge, I have always been struck by the difference in public manners. It hit me again when I pulled into a parking place in front of our building: — relief that I was back in New Bedford. I’ll miss the cat, who is very sweet, but I won’t miss North Cambridge.