So you’re coming up to the country. Maybe it’s your first time, or maybe you come up every weekend or maybe you even moved up here. You might’ve heard whispers among the locals of citiots, but you’re certain they mean someone else. You might be right — simply being from the city does not make one a citiot. Being unable or unwilling to modify your city behavior when in the country? That’s what will earn you this handle. For anything that follows, of course there might be a couple, up to a few, locals who do the same. There are outliers in every group.
• You didn’t invent or discover anything. We already knew. We’ve been here forever. We already know there is great art in Ulster County. Hell, Ulster County has had the highest per capita of artists in New York State for the past century. Woodstock as an artist’s colony started way before 1969; every town had its artists, musicians, social activists. It feels as if we are being condescended to, or worse — are invisible to you — when we read yet another quote, or overhear yet another person from the city thinking they discovered art, or swimming holes, or a great butcher here where we have always lived.
• Stop saying you opened your business to have something worthwhile. I will not name names here, though I could, and it would be quite a list. The point is simply that if you open a business here in the country, please, I beg you — stop saying it is because there was no worthy business of its sort already here. This is plain rude and you didn’t need to have been raised by Emily Post or Miss Manners to recognize that. Say you just love the way you make it and wanted to share it, using your old family recipe/tradition/method. You don’t need to casually insult our offerings to make your case.
• Branch out — your new friend might not be like you. What’d you move here for anyway, if you need a bubble? There was a popular article in a city-people magazine some years ago, about moving to the country and not wanting to be a citiot. The article is so wildly condescending, yet neither the author nor the editor recognized it. At one point, the author lamented that in the city, while dropping her kid off at daycare, it is easy to spot, “another stay-at-home artist mom who likes yoga” or some equally ludicrous description of the person she might best get along with because the person is essentially herself. You likely won’t find so many like you up here. We don’t either. I have friends with Ph.D.’s, and friends who are janitors. Literally. Both. And I wouldn’t trade any of them. You do yourself a disservice looking for such a small little stripe in the rainbow.
• Red Lights, red lights, red lights. Red. Lights. We sit, dumbfounded (that slack-jawed expression you find yokel-ish just might be because we are appalled at your temerity), watching three of you habitually run a red light. Three. As if a red light is a mere suggestion. Let me say one more time — this ain’t the city. Stop endangering our children because you are in a rush. Stop the car at red lights, and slow it down at a yellow. Further, please stop honking at us from behind because we actually wait for the green photons of light to hit our retinas before we start going through the intersection. You came up here because you wanted to get away from the stress of the city, didn’t you? Relax, and try to think of it as an exercise in mindfulness if that makes you feel better.
• Complaining about what it costs to make your home beautiful. This is a common one. The person fixing your steps, or your septic tank (we don’t have sewers up here, in most places), or putting on your roof — when he asks for $30 or $40 an hour, many of you are aghast. And then, a second later, you wonder why they don’t return your calls or why they aren’t anxious to work for you. I’ve been present during a conversation with a woman who bought a house up here and then talked at length about how hard it was to find decent help, but that finally she had, and she was so grateful. I am not going to share specifics, because I am not out to shame anyone here. The good help she had finally found was paid $25 a day to come in and do several hours manual labor for this woman. The woman was at a dinner party, among the polite company of others who were from the city, and me, happily bragging about how she was paying someone an amount just above slave wages. Appalled doesn’t approach how I felt, or feel. Here is a tip — keeping your house both safe and beautiful takes a skill set you don’t have, acquired over years of work. Your laborer needs to eat too. His car needs maintenance too. Stop being stingy, stop thinking you are being taken advantage of because someone asks for a fair wage. And if you can’t, then don’t be surprised when you find it hard to get good help.
• Stop underestimating us. We are smart too. We are politically savvy too. We like a clean planet too. We like good schools and pretty art, same as you. If we don’t happen to like Piss Christ or the whole Sensations show altogether, that is not because we are ignorant. It’s because a vast portion of human beings prefer pleasant things, when given an option. Also, and I realize this is a tough one, stop applying your brief formal education to what we have been handing down for generations. We know which trees to trim back on the edge of a field. We know about carbon footprints and might also prefer a newer truck with better gas mileage and fewer emissions, but Ulster County happens to have just about the highest cost-of-living to income ratio in the country. Stop making so many assumptions about what it means to not be from the city, and you will find things are easier for all of us.
• Try to not be a citiot. That’s almost good enough. Just try.
Henry Rosewater is a pseudonym for a lifelong Kingston resident.