We Mainers are a resilient bunch.
At the height of Ice Storm ’98, out-of-state line crews were buzzing about the casual attitude of a half-million people without power for more than a week. Thousands of us couldn’t flush our toilets for days, but that didn’t stop us from venturing out to the nearest utility pole to ask Joe Lineman from North Carolina if he could use a cup of coffee.
“If I showed up in my state to hook somebody up after they’d been out for a week, they wouldn’t be waving — they’d be throwing stuff at me,” remarked one southern volunteer. “You guys are great.”
Yeah, we’re great. We’re tough. But we’re not particularly imaginative.
Rather than sit around the radio and listen to some half-wit enlighten us on how to cook a steak on the manifold of a Dodge, we could have been doing something useful with all that down time. Something like … picking a symbol to represent Maine on the back of a quarter!
Patrick Murphy, chief interrogator at Strategic Marketing Services, figured it must have come up at least once during the cold, black nights preceding his survey of 450 Mainers the week of Jan. 16. The poll’s results suggest no one wanted to think about this question very long.
Explaining each state will be allowed to choose a symbol that best represents that state on the back of a quarter as part of a commemorative minting law passed last month, the pollsters also emphasized the choice cannot be a person.
Apparently anticipating the long pause that was supposed to be an opportunity for a response, the interviewer was instructed to offer the following choices: elk, pine tree, chickadee, lighthouse, black bear, lobster or moose.
Even with that array of less-than provocative images, 28 percent of those polled were still scratching their heads in an attempt to come up with an answer. Of those who did, 32 percent favored the pine tree. Fourteen percent thought a chickadee was synonymous with Maine. Thirteen percent chose the lighthouse, nine percent like the moose and only four percent selected the lobster.
The bear and elk can drop dead as far as this poll was concerned. Which prompts one to question the validity of the suggested choices in the first place. After all, Maine is a big state with a smorgasbord of potential icons that everyone can relate to.
Like, a pint of Allen’s coffee-flavored brandy.
These little suckers are nearly ubiquitous among Maine’s tipplers who frequently select this brand of liquor as the one to have when you’re having more than five. It’s cheaper than Kaluah when concocting a sombrero, illustrating the frugal nature of those from the Pine Tree State.
And since nearly a third of all Mainers like the idea of having a pine tree on the back of their quarters, they might as well go for realism and depict the variety that we’re stuck with after the storm. You know, busted off 12 feet from the top and just kind of hanging there by a shred of bark waiting for some guy with a chainsaw to finish them off.
Other symbols from the storm to grace the quarter could include a line of Mainers waiting to fill up on kerosene, the state slogan: “Ya got power, yet?” or a tractor-trailer loaded with replacement utility poles and wiring.
If a big rig doesn’t match your mental image of Maine, maybe a hard hat with a lightning bolt on it would be more appropriate. The SMS poll concluded 87 percent of their respondents thought their utility company did a “good to excellent job” in restoring power.
And that beats the poll’s other four choices combined.
A. Jay Higgins is the NEWS political editor. He can be reached at State House Station 50, Augusta 04333 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.