Our Bad-Boy Side

Welcome to Boston. Now get out.

By Dan Forward


hate Boston. I hate the people in it.”

“Someone intentionally gave me directions from South Boston to Marblehead that took me down Lansdowne Street when a Red Sox game was getting out.”

“Why do all the cars seem to want to play ‘car vs. pedestrian’ chicken?”

“Why am I a ‘little bitch’ just because I said that 20 degrees is ‘jacket weather?’”

Wow, just shut up for a second! Yes, people in Boston are mean. They’re terrible human beings. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with you on that, and if they do, they’re just doing it to upset you. But you know what living in a morass of miserable winters and purposeful cruelty makes you? It makes you strong. Someone from one of those other states that are—in so many ways—beneath Massachusetts would quail at the myriad physical, psychological, and emotional challenges a Bostonian is subjected to just on his way to work.

I’m pretty soft by this city’s standards. I get along with dumb out-of-towners from places like Maryland and Colorado who come here expecting to be warmly welcomed. I think I actually attract them. It is not an exaggeration to say that people come up to me on the street or on the T to ask me for directions or other help several times a week. Sometimes I even approach them.

One time while walking over the bridge from Copley to Prudential, I found a man on the floor who was groaning. Someone else was trying to help him up. I went over to find out if I could do anything for him. My two friends sped up and didn’t look back until they were far enough away to avoid any residual responsibility. (They deny that they did this, but it’s the truth. One of them also kicked a pigeon once.) When I started to talk to this man, the other Good Samaritan immediately left, and I found out why a few seconds later. The man claimed he had cancer which was hurting his “ass.” (He also appeared to be suffering from being a drunken bastard.)

He did not want me to help him up. He did not want me to call anyone for him. He did, however, want me to fight him. (Let me stop right here and assure you that I don’t usually fight homeless cancer patients unless the prize money is too good to pass up.) After he harangued me about how much his butt hurt like it was my fault and yelled at me until I started to walk away, he started screaming at me, “You wanna fight? I have cancer! Let’s fight!” So of course everyone immediately turns their previously directionless disgust on me. I yelled back, “Yeah?” and took a tentative step forward, but then retreated and tried to catch up with my companions, who were about three miles ahead of me by then.

Don’t judge me solely by that, though. Take that anecdote alongside this one: I once ran into a girl I knew from high school who graduated BC a few years before me. When I remarked that we hadn’t seen each other in about three years, she told me that while she had often seen me walking around campus, she had never wanted to approach me because I “always looked very upset.” I’m not always upset, but being here so long has made a scowl on my face as omnipresent as tourists wearing dumb T-shirts making fun of Boston accents (e.g., “Hahvahd,” or anything referencing the phrase “wicked pissah,” which—to my knowledge—no one has ever said un-ironically even once.)

And it’s not like we get any solace from our friendships. In Boston, we pick our friends the way Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray picks his enemies, “For their good intellects.” Certainly not for the empathy, anyway. I chose to go to law school primarily because all my best relationships were already adversarial. I was out to dinner with Sara and trying to make her feel guilty about being so mean to me by exaggerating that she categorized everything I did as “weird” or “dorky” or “funny.” She shrugged and said that she didn’t always think I was funny, “like when you’re writing your humor blogs.” Don’t worry, I didn’t cry. Not in front of her. And anyway, you can’t have a better friend—or girlfriend, as the case may be—in Boston than one who never gives you a break. It keeps you on your toes, which you need around here. I guess Sara is nice to me sometimes, too. But she doesn’t overdo it, which is so sexy.

So there you have it: my take on why it’s so great that Boston is so crappy. Now I want to hear from you, readers! What’s your best Boston story about how cruelty makes you more capable human beings? Leave your tale in the comments section. No, jeez, I’m kidding. This is my column. If someone wanted your opinion, they’d publish you.

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