If you live a long time in the North Country, certain behaviors will become invisible. It takes the eye of a relative newcomer to bring them back to light. Nora Flaherty, after a visit to the vet, remarked that the waiting room contained women and animals. Men waited outside in the parking lot. And you can see the same thing in the medical building parking lot outside the radio station, or the Price Chopper parking lot across the street. So, rule of thumb: if a North Country couple is driving around doing errands, where will you see the guy? In the parking lot, waiting in the car. And if it’s winter, you’ll still find him in the car, with the motor running to keep warm. The only exception is at the car mechanic, or in the hardware store–you know–certified guy territory.
Why? As a male, and a North Country old-timer, I feel I can speak to this. The only thing North Country men hate more than shopping is sitting in close quarters with strangers. Men can only be included among the social animals by courtesy. If we wanted to be in close quarters, we would pay closer attention to grooming and dress, and would shave more frequently. We’d much rather be thinking our guy thoughts, or listening to the radio, or reading the paper. If circumstance forces a man into a non-hardware retail environment, he’ll work from a list, no exceptions (unless there’s snack food at the checkout), and he’ll avoid eye contact when racing up and down the aisles. Shopping is a mission, not a social occasion. If their spouses had the same approach, more men would probably be willing to accompany them inside.
You may well be saying to yourself, “Why you sexist old Neanderthal.” A gentleman would not dignify such a remark with comment. A North Country guy, being a super-efficient communicator, would just grunt. If we liked to argue, we would talk in more than monosyllables.