By Rosalie Tirella
Today I needed to drive into Providence. So I grabbed a pal and we headed down 146 South, he on the look-out for old signs, me on my mission. Rain, drizzle, rawness in the air … . And guess what? Even though I missed the exit to the cool Italian restaurant on Federal Hill (he didn’t want to drive), despite the rain, drizzle and rawness in the air, it was all so very … pleasant!
It wasn’t Water Fire or Brown University or RISD. Nope. Much more basic than that: it was the people.
It was the people, peeps!
Nice, polite – even friendly – people. Providence is loaded with them!
I am driving in the middle of Providence on Highway 95, not knowing which lane I need to swerve into. I am driving kinda funny. My fellow drivers slow down, are patient with my unfamiliarity with their town and allow me to drive ACROSS 95 (the equivalent of Worcester’s 290) to the correct lane – the lane I need to reach to get off at the correct exit.
Not one middle finger jammed into the air by my fellow drivers during the entire ordeal! Not one! HEAVEN!
Next: I ask a cop in a parking lot for directions to my destination and he is wonderful! He is … professional! Helpful! Smiles even! It is only natural that I want to say (and do): “Thank you, officer!” He deserved the (respectful) thanks! My friend – a guy who has been around the block once or twice – was also impressed with the police officer’s demeanor. “Maybe it’s because it’s warmer here [than in Worcester],” he offered, unhelpfully.
“Bull,” I said. “Three or four degrees warmer than Worcester?! We’re not talking Florida here! He was nice and helpful – acted the way we were taught cops are supposed to act with the public.”
Today Providence felt like a cool blue collar city. Busy, bustling and all the men and women nice and physical and … kinda happy. So unlike Worcester, where folks can be terse, rude, unfriendly and get into your face. And forget about considerate driving. You are road kill here in Worcester! I can’t believe we have painted bike paths through KELLEY SQUARE! Kelley Square!
When I asked another Providence guy to recommend a great restaurant in the city, he did (readily) but not before calling his co-worker to get the best directions because, when he goes to the restaurant, “my wife drives.” He smiled a nice big SMILE. A smile in the drizzle – for us! As if he enjoyed chatting with us! In the rain!
This doesn’t happen often enough in Worcester. We celebrate World Smiley Day here – invented the yellow smile puss! But we never practice it!
And being a nice person – especially when an entire city’s populace seems to be on the same nice vibe – MAKES A DIFFERENCE.
Makes a city better. More livable. More attractive even. Catnip to tourists who want to spend their money around NICE people.
Makes a visitor want to return to Providence to find that cool Italian restaurant on Federal Hill.