Albany: “This’ll Do!”

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Today on the Scajaquada Expressway in Buffalo, I noticed a woman trying to merge. I pulled to the left to give her room. The process was by all means flawless, except that when I passed her afterwards, she smiled and waved.

Like a psychopath.

I was on my way to Toronto for comedy. One of the perks of my job is the traveling I get to do. I say that because I’m in Toronto right now. (Ask me again next month when I’m in Binghamton.)

When we went out to lunch the hostess said, “Good afternoon! How are you?” And I said “three!” to indicate there were three of us who needed to be seated. I shook my head briskly as if I was trying to propel water out of my hair. It was to reset my brain. Someone had asked me a polite question about my day, not how many people were in my party. Am I all business? Or worse, rude?

Neither of those things. I’m just from Albany. Which I have noticed through all my traveling can tend to be, by comparison, a little unfriendly. Now before you get all up in arms and start cursing me out (and proving my point), just hear me out. I consider Albany to be my hometown. I have lived here the longest, I make a great living here and I enjoy it very much (for the most part). But it is, in fact, a little on the unfriendly side. You may be reading this and thinking, “I am VERY friendly to everyone all the time!” I’m happy for you, you rare jewel. I also don’t believe you.

Here’s the thing: I don’t MIND this about Albany. I abhor small talk and have plenty of friends already. And we’re pretty mean to one another. That’s comfortable to me. Occasionally though, I’ll be having a particularly good day and I’ll smile and say hello to a stranger on the street. It doesn’t happen THAT often so it’s been easy to keep track of how many times I’ve received a smile back. I’d guess 5% of the time. It’s usually met with a look of confusion, a scoff, complete ignorance or the person crosses the street to avoid the crazy beast who smiled and said hello.

I often joke that Albany is the undeserved capital of the state of NY. I picture a couple old, fat, white dudes in wigs trying to get out of the city traveling north on what would later be known as “The Thruway” and then they ran out of gas or steam or horse and said “This’ll do!” That should be Albany’s motto! “This’ll Do!”

I remember being in Nashville a few years ago and went for coffee. “Good morning, how are you?” asked the barista.

“Venti soy-“ I started to say. “Oh. I’m sorry.” I was completely thrown. “I’m fine, thanks!” I wanted to say “I’ll be better once you give me my fucking coffee!” but I didn’t. Because that would have been rude.

My first time in Toronto I was taking a cab with my sister. The cab driver asked for five dollars. I had a five and a twenty so I gave him the twenty. He said “Do you have anything smaller?” I said “I only have a five!”

“That’s fine. It’s five dollars.”

“But then I can’t tip you!” I said.

“Don’t worry about it!” He replied.

So I smashed a brick through his window. Because clearly he was pure evil.

Whether I’ve been thousands of miles away or even as nearby as Syracuse, I just notice a little more friendliness. Just enough for me to take notice. I’ll say, “Everyone is so nice here!” And they’re usually surprised.

“We are?” they’ll ask. Maybe not. But I’ve been abused, clearly.

BizJournals had Albany ranked 13th as the most unfriendly city in the world and 7th in the country. This came YEARS after my theory and also as no surprise.

I do look at Albany as my home though and so it’s ok for me to say this. If you’re not from here and say something like that I’ll knock your teeth out. It’s like I can say, “My sister is a whore,” but if you agree with me, I’ll throw you to the ground, pin you down, and scream in your face “DON’T TALK ABOUT MY SISTER THAT WAY!”

And heaven help you if you mispronounce it! It’s not “Al” as in “You Can Call Me Al!” it’s “All” as in “all of it sucks.”

As I type this I’m waiting for a radio interview on Canada Talks. I got here very early and am using my time appropriately, clearly. I got here early because I never know how long it’ll take my criminal ass to get through border security. At least three people that work here have apologized to me because I have to wait.

Because I got here early.

They are apologizing to me. I mean it’s Canada, so relatively speaking it’s extra polite, but from Albany to here it a violent shock to my system.

My theory is gonna make some Albanians very angry at me. But I won’t notice. They were angry to begin with.

3 Comments
  1. docfrenzy says

    Loved this piece… trés amusement!

  2. jen says

    Nippertown doing what it does best: serving as a safe space for cranky old white people.

  3. Stephen Staples says

    As a cranky old fat guy who calls Albany home now (sorta)… I’m offended. And you are right… I’ve seen and heard people talk about our snarky attitude toward everything. Good piece!!!

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