By Phineas J. Stone
Being Mr. Boston, I have been around the Town for more than a little while, and as such, I like the rules for the most part.
But these are times when everywhere I look, people – especially young people – are preaching about how everything that has come before them is outdated, outmoded and ripe for the history books.
I just have to laugh. I think it has to do with the blind arrogance of the first Internet generation, and in Boston it was probably similar at the height of the Industrial Revolution or the advent of train travel.
I happened upon a young man in the Common at a Bernie Sanders rally not long ago, and among the many things he was espousing that need to be free, was college. He also discussed getting rid of perhaps every rule and system that we have put in place also – quoting bullet points from the Vermont socialist-leaning presidential candidate about how it’s time to eliminate everything that has come before and create an entirely new foundation.
Out with all of the old, in with all of the new.
No Wall Street.
Mortgages are evil instruments of the rich.
Exorbitant pay for low-skill jobs.
Cars that cannot be driven long distances.
No more taxi cabs.
And even food that isn’t produced on factory (or I would say efficient) American farms.
This coming from a young man who had yet to participate – or even understand – those systems and the wisdom behind them; the genius of experience and the wealth of knowledge stored up in those rules and systems put in motion by generations of Bostonians before him.
Here in Boston, we have lots of rules – both spoken and unspoken. They often are infuriating in their complexity and specific nature, but once we look closer at them, we realize they were crafted for a reason.
Take the “Boston wave.”
In Boston – if you’re like Mr. Boston and follow the cues of those who came before – you’re taught to give a little polite wave of the hand when you cross in front of a vehicle that has stopped for you. Likewise, if you’re driving and another driver allows you to switch lanes, bang a left or cut in front, you give the polite wave.
It’s a rule, and in our brash Boston ways, we need that frequent bit of civility between total strangers.
Many don’t realize it, but that really doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country. No one else has a version of the “Boston wave.” I’ve had friends who visited from afar, and they always react with such excitement to see everyone giving a polite, but curt, wave as they walk or drive.
Think of the outrage that would multiply if everyone in Boston just stopped this little courtesy.
When I was younger, I was all for rewriting the rules – setting all the old fogies straight – until I quickly became an old fogey early in life and began vehemently defending these rules, regulations and closely-held courtesies.
I recall in my 20s living on a street where they towed vehicles in the morning rush hour. I worked nights, so it was inevitable that the old BTD tow truck was going to get me – and it did. I was outraged by the situation, declared class warfare on the commuters from the suburbs coming through my street, and I denounced this system. I refused to pay my ticket, protested before a magistrate that these “outsiders” headed to downtown banks needed to move to the city or stay out of my city.
After my outrage had died down, someone explained to me the reasoning behind the towing rule. It had actually been the neighbors, people who owned their homes and had lived there a lot longer than I had, who had asked for morning towing. It seems that before towing in the mornings, commuters would clog the street and cause gridlock. It spilled on to the neighboring smaller streets and ended up making it so that no one in the neighborhood could get out of their homes.
They were wise enough to know that the commuters weren’t going away, and so they put in morning towing to free up two and a half additional travel lanes. It worked, I was told, and my neighbors were tired of me yelling about it and threatening to get rid of it.
I was humbled, and realized there was a system in place that came before me that was the product of wisdom and experience. It was time for me to participate in it, and not protest it.
I was just like the young man I met a few weeks ago in the Common at the time, fiery and ready to change all things. The difference though is I was outnumbered by responsible people and was willing to listen. Today in Boston, there are too many firebrands and the people at things like the Sanders rallies, or anywhere like it, are too busy yelling and screaming to listen. They’re blinded by the outrage and the excitement of protest – and have truly bought into the fact that the wisdom of the past is full of evil intentions.
They want Uber and AirBNB and they want no evil rules governing such things like them.
Then their friends start getting raped and murdered by some of the woefully unregulated drivers and housekeepers, and they wonder how in the world it was allowed to happen.
Soon, I bet, they’ll want to draft some rules.