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Friday(ish) roundup: That Was the Week That Was Edition

Posted by Robin Abrahams  April 27, 2013 07:51 AM

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I went through this week in something of a daze, still not sure that the events of the week before really happened. Did you? Something about the weird containment of the events within the week itself--from the bombing Monday afternoon to the capture Friday evening--made it seem dreamlike. 

Last Thursday night, I came home from rehearsal, made a cup of tea, and prepared to settle in for a few hours' work on an editing project for my HBS job. When the shootout happened I traded tea for coffee and stayed up for the rest of the night, following the action online--and listening to the sirens and explosions from our Cambridge apartment. I watched the city wake up to the news, and saw the weird, stilted day begin. Around 9, I went back to bed and slept for five hours or so. And then woke, and watched. 

And as soon as they caught the guy, I went to Shaw's and bought a box of eclairs and ate four of them and the only reason I didn't eat five was that Mr. Improbable--who hates sweets--scarfed one down. (Will the person who accused me of fad dieting because I avoid bread please take note.) What did you eat after they captured Dzhokar? According to my Facebook feed, Boston was eating its feelings, along with anything else it could get hold of. 

All my life I have loved stories of wanderers, literal or metaphorical--those who are born out of place and must find their true home. Boston is my home. Sixteen years ago I arrived on a train like a girl in a musical, and last week among all the fear and anger and sorrow there was a deep stab of joy at seeing my love, my Boston, put into words so beautifully by others. Dennis Lehane in the New York Times:
But I do love this city. I love its atrocious accent, its inferiority complex in terms of New York, its nut-job drivers, the insane logic of its street system. I get a perverse pleasure every time I take the T in the winter and the air-conditioning is on in the subway car, or when I take it in the summer and the heat is blasting. Bostonians don't love easy things, they love hard things -- blizzards, the bleachers in Fenway Park, a good brawl over a contested parking space. Two different friends texted me the identical message yesterday: They messed with the wrong city. This wasn't a macho sentiment. It wasn't "Bring it on" or a similarly insipid bit of posturing. The point wasn't how we were going to mass in the coffee shops of the South End to figure out how to retaliate. Law enforcement will take care of that, thank you. No, what a Bostonian means when he or she says "They messed with the wrong city" is "You don't think this changes anything, do you?"
And in a similar but more profane and hilarious vein, Jim Dowd:
This place gave us Leonard Nimoy and Mark Walberg. Southie and Cambridge. Brookline and Brockton. This place will kick the screaming piss out of you, come up with a cure for having the screaming piss kicked out of you, give it to you for free, then win a Nobel prize for it and then use the medallion to break your knuckles. See what I'm talking about?
This civic pride was more than justified by our behavior last Friday, which is why I was infuriated by the Arkansas senator, and similar yammerers, who saw Boston as an example of anything other than serious-minded people doing a big job in a thorough way. Some of my Facebook posts on the topic:

My response to Nate Bell's "apology" to the citizens of Massachusetts: "Your apology is not accepted. May God Himself accept your declaration of moral, intellectual, and rhetorical bankruptcy." 
I'm angry at some of the right-wing characterizations of Boston's actions yesterday. This was not martial law. Nobody was "cowering" in their homes. The lockdown was a request that we were happy to comply with, because it was the most useful thing 99% of us could do. Bostonians damn well know how to lead, follow, or GET OUT OF THE WAY. Yes, we shut down the city for the day and took the economic hit. If God forbid something like this happens AGAIN, we'll decide to what extent we want to follow this model subsequently. No, it doesn't mean any 19-year-old with a grudge can drive the city to a halt any time he wants. It means we take sh*t SERIOUSLY in this town. Any mistakes we made on this? We'll learn from. Don't you worry. 
I've noted for a long time that Boston "rudeness" is actually a particular code of etiquette, one based on respect for the *goals* (rather than the feelings or personal space) of other people. To some degree, the disjunct between what we felt yesterday, and what the rest of the nation perceived, reflects that difference in etiquette. Bostonians show respect by *providing information* and *getting out of each others' way*. The last time we confused the nation this badly was during the Democratic National Convention in 2004, when we politely exited the city en masse to let the conventioneers have it to themselves. Not everyone's definition of hospitality, it turned out.
But I think Miss Conduct's final word on the lockdown will have to be this:

Another thing people outside Boston may not understand: We routinely drive, bicycle, and traverse our public roadways like utter maniacs. In order to free up sufficient first-response police and medical personnel, we could either learn decent manners overnight, or stay home. We made the right choice.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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