In summer, with over 3 million visitors coming through our state, it’s only natural that some of them get curious about Maine. Some curious readers have sent emails saying they live in Texas or Montana or New York and know nothing about Maine, and they often ask me for information.
To respond to such inquiries, I was forced to do some research. (And did I happen to mention that research was the basis for my latest book, “Moose Memoirs and Lobster Tales?”)
It’s not that I am ignorant of Maine facts. After all, I’m also a radio talk show host and as such I’m supposed to know most everything, right?
Anyway, I’ve learned a lot about my home state during the past year or so. For example, with an area of 33,215 square miles, Maine is the largest of the six New England states.
Being a storyteller, I’m often tempted to exaggerate Maine’s size and write that we have more like 50,000 square miles, or maybe 100,000 square miles? Nobody ever checks such claims anyway.
Once I included comparison figures in my reply so the reader could see that even though Maine is smaller than many states, it’s a lot bigger than the states that make up the rest of the region we call New England.
Our neighbor, New Hampshire, for instance, barely has 9,000 square miles of space to its name and much of that consists of huge piles of granite, otherwise known as the Presidential Range. Maybe that’s why New Hampshire folks are always coveting our land and starting border disputes.
Someone from Texas (area: 267,338 square miles) recently wrote for some information on Maine and, knowing that size is important to Texans, I was almost reluctant to include information about Maine’s size. I finally included the figures but added that although Maine may seem small by western standards – Montana, for example (area: 147,138 square miles) – we’re a lot bigger than, say, Connecticut (area: 5,009 square miles) or Rhode Island (area: 1,214 square miles). Wal-Mart has parking lots bigger than Rhode Island.
Speaking of parking lots, I also received this angry email the other day from Fred in Pownal.
He writes: “John, I’ve enjoyed your column for years and knew I had to write after visiting the grocery store the other day. Is it my imagination or do parking spaces keep getting smaller? I counted at least 20 cars over the white line in the store’s parking lot during a recent visit.
“I thought to myself, ‘Something should be done about this.’ But my problems didn’t end in the parking lot, John. I got my four items and then got in the so-called Express Lane. Is using the term Express Lane an example of supermarket humor, or what? Don’t tell me large impersonal corporations can’t be funny.
“John, there are glaciers in Alaska that move faster than your average supermarket Express Lane. I was second in line and I start thinking, ‘Hey, Fred, it’s only a matter of seconds now and you’re out the door.’
“No such luck. The woman in front of me watched the clerk scan and bag her 28 items and only then did she decide maybe it was time to start fishing through her handbag for some money. I timed her, John, and after getting out the necessary bills she dug through her purse for seven minutes getting the last 67 cents of her total. Those 67 cents cost me seven minutes of my life. John. I’ll never see those seven minutes, again.”
John McDonald is the author of six books on Maine, including his latest, “Moose Memoirs and Lobster Tales.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.