Things I Hate About Living in the Utica Area (Opinion)
It's trendy these days to write and talk about how great it is to live in the Utica-Rome area of Upstate New York. Today I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and I was waiting in line at a convenience store when the woman buying lottery tickets ahead of me was chatting with the clerk. That's when I decided I was going to be honest today and talk about the things that I hate about living here.
"We really are lucky to live here," the woman said. She then added a brief bit of commentary that struck a note with me when she complained, "it's a shame because people here just don't realize how good they have it."
Let's be honest, they don't realize how great it is to live here because they're too busy focusing on the stuff they hate. I'm sure you can appreciate the irony when I say one thing I hate most about our area is our negativity. Sometimes I feel like we don't appreciate anything here. When somebody accomplishes something great, we're not impressed. When somebody gets a new dream job, we wonder, "who do they think they are?" When someone gets a nice new expensive house, we feel like they must have robbed someone in order to be able to afford THAT house.
Here's a conversation I know you've overheard that falls into the category of jealousy. "Did you see the new car in neighbor Bob's driveway? Why does he feel like he has to flaunt his money? What a jerk!" Is it possible that neighbor Bob doesn't give a blank about what you think of his new car? Should he park it behind the house just to make sure you don't think he's showing off?
I hate the fact that we are so impatient. We never have to wait for anything, so when we do have to wait we become irrational. The table is always ready at the restaurant, there's almost never a traffic jam, and the line at the grocery store is never THAT long. We really don't even have to wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. In other cities, there are lines of people stretching around a city block. Not us, and the SUNY POLY vaccination site is the perfect example. The process works flawlessly as you walk through, check-in at each station, get your shot, wait 15-minutes to make sure you're not allergic and you're done.
Remember when that gas truck tipped over near the Route 8/Route 5 off ramp? Traffic was backed up for miles and people went nuts and were even screaming at firefighters. Lighten up people, there was a terrible accident with a toxic spill and flipping out on first responders because you're going to be late for your daughter's soccer game is really pretty terrible.
COVID-19 has challenged us a bit when it comes to waiting. When the bank lobby is closed, there's a long wait in the drive thru line. I needed a contractor to do work on our roof and because they were so busy, I had to wait for him to free up, and I waited about 15 minutes back in December when I had to get tested for COVID. Then, I had to wait 2-days for them to call me and tell me I tested positive. I also had to wait way too long for the health department to release me from COVID quarantine (14 days at the time).
Sometimes waiting would be a good thing, if we were just willing to do it. Back during the Woodstock 99 festival, businesses set up food trucks all along Old River Road in Marcy with plans of making tons of money off the people who were waiting in traffic on their way into Griffiss in Rome. Officials did such a great job with the traffic flow to prevent people from having to wait, that cars never stopped and didn't even slow down, so those hopeful businesses looking to cash in on Woodstock lost thousands of dollars.
I also think we could be a little more open to change. Check that, we should be a lot more open to change. Remember the anti-downtown hospital movement that fizzled as shovels entered into the ground? One of my favorites was the protest to stop a Stewarts from building in East Utica, or the rally to stop construction of a round-about on Oriskany Boulevard over by the OD.
When you think about it, if we're talking about something fairly new for the region that has become really successful, if you look back, you'll recall a sizable group protesting and trying to prevent it from happening. You name it, we've stood up against it in one way or another. There were groups trying to prevent community projects like the Turning Stone, the Utica Comets, Nexus, the hospital parking garage, and even the chip project at SUNY POLY was undermined despite almost every penny of investment coming from the state. The fact is, we are really good at being really negative.
There's no doubt, we got our dreaded dealbreaker with the COVID shutdown as it has cost our region significantly. Still, we have many projects in the works, along with a solid foundation to begin with, that are driving us in the proper direction. We just have to work harder at ignoring those negative influencers that suck the air out of a room. Yes, it's important that we continue to question our leaders in an effort to fine tune the journey forward, however, "being against everything" is what people without vision do to make it look like they're actually saving us all from the boogie man. I think I hate that Utica personality trait more than all the others.
The good news is, the majority of people here are forward thinkers who want what's best for the region going forward. The bad news is that the people of "no" are often times, the loudest, by far.