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[OPINION] Former Westporter: “Entitled Attitudes” Sent Us Elsewhere

The other day, an alert “06880” reader — and former resident — emailed me. He now lives in Black Rock — the diverse, tight-knit and active neighborhood in Bridgeport, just across Ash Creek from Fairfield.

It was a private note — but his perspective deserves a wide audience. He asked for anonymity, so that the focus could be on his words, not on him. That makes sense.

He wrote:

Moving here has been a great experience. We know our neighbors, watch out for each other, enjoy walks through the neighborhood.

What a change from our old neighborhood in Westport. We had a great lot — lovely trees and expansive lawns. We remodeled, and settled in for nearly 30 years.

But older neighbors left or passed away. Over time we had less interaction with  our newer neighbors. Many homes were torn down, with huge new ones taking their place.

Big stone walls were raised, shutting out sightlines from one home to another. It was time for us to decide if we’d stay or go.

Big walls alter streetscapes.

Our kids went through the Westport school system, and on to great college. We never complained about the taxes, because we really got something in return. We got the education system, the services, Longshore, Compo, and the continuity of building our family in Westport.

I commuted for many years. My wife was active in many community service organizations. We were well-integrated in Westport. We still belong to our church there.

So moving to Bridgeport was a very big step.

But little things happened. At the train station I’d pick up trash that people casually left. A guy once asked if I worked for the town. “Nope,” I said. “I’m a commuter like you. I just don’t like seeing garbage lying around, waiting for someone else to remove it.”

A familiar sight in Westport.

That was part of what rankled — the entitled attitude of so many fellow commuters. Perfectly fit men would leave their coffee cups on the railing, rather than walk 10 steps to the bin.

One morning I said to a guy, “Please put that in the trash.”

“What’s it to you?” he asked.

“I live here too,” I replied. “I don’t expect anyone to pick up after me.”

Grudgingly, he threw it away.

I was really angry. I saw him as a representative of entitlement — someone who typified a “type” that had moved into “my” town.

That was just part of it. I’d had enough of the super-wealth that had come to Westport, changing its ethos with a less-than-communal attitude — or so it seemed to me.

So when it came time to sell our home and  move elsewhere, we just happened to find ourselves in a neighborhood that seemed friendly and accommodating. We weren’t pressured to “keep up.” Rather, we were welcomed for whatever expertise and contributions we could make to our new community.

We jumped in with both feet.

The Black Rock section of Bridgeport. (Photo/Gregg Vigliotti for the New York Times)

All the problems are here too — and more. But the entitlement attitude — born of great wealth and expectation — is not.

There’s anger at the “haves.” There’s prejudice that comes from poverty and need. There’s vast deficits in opportunity and vision.

But there’s no shortage of need and desire for a better chance.

All the best for a more harmonious 2017, for all who live on this precious planet we share.

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