North and South

November 7, 2019

After my Rotary Club meeting this morning, instead of going directly home and changing out of my “nice” clothes into what could easily pass for something akin to “urban slob attire,” (I was wearing mascara and earrings after all) I decided to take care of a few items needing my attention. So, I took my car through the car wash. It was heavily coated in salt water residue after sitting adjacent to the ocean for a week and it badly needed attention. Then I decided a quick visit to the supermarket was in order. The market in question is part of a mid-size regional chain, family-owned, and its culture is decidedly quirky. I never know what to expect when I walk through the doors. What I do know I will always find are its constants: smiling faces, helpful attitudes, and people who are either excellent actors or who truly enjoy what they do. Everyone makes eye contact, says “hello,” inquires if I need anything and just generally has a helpful attitude. Among the more endearing features is the aroma of the bread department that greets your olfactory senses as soon as you walk in the door and the regular and fun announcements that “HOT BREAD just out of the oven!” both sure to cause a small stampede to the small, but well stocked bread counter. A few steps away are the bakery, deli, and produce, all overflowing with delectables. If you can escape without sampling, you are a stronger person than I. It is beyond tempting. It will have you in its clutches in seconds. There’s also a sushi chef on staff and you can literally buy your dinner because all sorts of hot entrees are ready for you to take home should you decide to forego cooking. It’s a mouthwatering dilemma. You can pick fresh herbs in any quantity, of course buy beer and wine – and grits – don’t forget the grits. This is the South, after all. I have never seen such a selection of grits. In this particular store, which isn’t large like the big chains, I am estimating there are at least a dozen varieties of grits from which to choose. One day, I will succumb and purchase. For now, I remain a Yankee.

As I wend my way through the aisles, being greeted by probably 90 percent of those I pass with a warm smile or hello, I am suddenly struck by the fact that I have been living here for almost seven months. I have transitioned from the north to the south. I am also keenly aware that there are profound and subtle differences between life in the north and life in the south. These are just my observations. They are not meant to cast aspersions or criticisms on either location. Each has its own charms and identity. So, as I have said before, don’t get your panties in a wad. This is a blog. It’s not the law of the land and will certainly not stand up in a court of law. We are all entitled to our opinions. For entertainment purposes only. Calm down. Isn’t that Taylor Swift’s newest single?

As I stated, the friendliness is what first struck me. I really am amazed at how everyone seems to have taken their happy pill. I have encountered one “snippy” individual who told me to “watch my truck” when apparently I was loading things into my car perilously close to his precious gun rack adorned manhood announcing air pollution inducing pick-up. I smiled sweetly; really, to those who know me, I AM capable of that on rare occasions, and said “of course.” But again, those who know me, know what I was saying under my breath. Insert snarky, no, really bitchy comment here. Other than that guy, I have encountered no unpleasantness. Coupled with that is the proverbial, “Yes ma’am, no ma’am” peppered into most sentences. Initially, I was a little taken aback, but I have come to love it. It’s really quite charming. The facilities people at my complex call me “Miss” followed by my first name but also use the “yes ma’am” etc. I asked someone about it and was told that it’s just the way it is. They are taught at home, in school. It’s a way of life. I will take it. We could use more of this attention to good manners in other parts of the country.

The accent. Some have the quintessential southern accent and some don’t. Lots of transplants here which explains the lack of accent, but even some of the locals don’t have one. Not sure why. I really like the drawl. Several of my fellow Rotarians have it and I enjoy it, y’all. Sweet Tea. It’s everywhere. I still drink unsweetened, but I hear it’s a beautiful thing; so I may have to give it a try.

One thing I have noticed, at least in the region of the south I am living in, is the property zoning, or should I say, lack of property zoning. It’s most noticeable in rural areas. Driving down a secondary road, you will encounter a lovely, upscale home in the $700,000 range. Travel a few hundred yards and you will see a doublewide trailer. To my knowledge, that’s not the norm where I used to live. It doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t bother them; I just find it odd. Coupled with this are “Thank You Jesus” signs. Not sure what these are about, but I am happy for them if they have something for which to be thankful.

Modes of transportation are pretty much the same as up north. What I have noticed, again, at least in my neck of the woods, is a preponderance of Camaros, Mustangs and Firebirds. Not sure why, but I am not complaining. Some of them are vintage and very well maintained. There are also lots of pick-ups which are customized with big wheels and other vestiges of southern living, including lots of bumper stickers with both political and other discussion inducing messages, which make for entertaining time spent at traffic stops.

The weather is better here, but it’s also a little bipolar. One day it’s 80 degrees, the next it’s 50. It can’t seem to decide sometimes. But I am not complaining. I haven’t experienced my first winter yet, but from what I hear, everyone here panics at the mention of snow, so I think I am good. As long as I have food, booze, my dog, and toilet paper, I am good. But let’s talk for a quick minute about the humidity. On some days, I officially have BIG. SOUTHERN. HAIR. It just happens. And the heat can be so bad that you literally must wait several minutes to let the car cool sufficiently before you can touch the steering wheel without sacrificing a layer of skin. Hotter than Hades I tell you.

I will be the first to pronounce that the bugs in the south are huge and scary and I hate them. Centipedes, millipedes, and cockroaches so big you can hear their footsteps on a bare floor – no exaggeration – are the norm here. I am not a fan, but I am proud to say that in the absence of my husband who was my bug-killing guy, I have put on my big girl panties and assumed the mantle of bug killer in my household. I am still terrified, but I get it done. Welcome to the South. They grow these critters big down here. I have noticed, still on the subject of critters, that the north has prettier birds. I have two bird feeders in my back yard and haven’t been able to attract much of a selection of attractive feathered friends. Still waiting.

There are many more differences and similarities to write about, but for now I will stop. I will continue to visit my neighborhood grocery, where they announce the twice daily staff meetings with “It’s show time” and hold them in full view of customers and end each meeting with the chicken dance – how cool is that? They also ask me each time at check out if I need help getting my groceries to my car. That’s Southern Hospitality for you! Or maybe it’s just because I look old. Hmmmm. Until next time.

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