Monday, July 07, 2008

Things I've Learned

I've lived my whole life in that big red area. I'm okay with that, since the alternatives include the Frozen North and hippie-infested wilderness. I've had some trouble fitting in for . . . oh . . . thirty-something years, but I'm trying my best to blend.

I learned early on (like elementary school early) that standing out in the red area just isn't done, at least not by people who don't want the "tar" beaten out of them. Believe me, it takes years of cigarette smoking to put the tar back where it goes.

I learned in Arkansas that college guys with long hair should never make eye contact with a local in a truck stop at three in the morning. This may be true outside Arkansas, but that isn't an experiment I'm willing to fund.

I've also learned that beer is supposed to be yellow, the lighter the better. People that drink dark or (gasp!) imported beers are outsiders. Cram that stuff in the back of the refrigerator behind some kind of vegetable and drink it late at night in a darkened room.

NASCAR is for real. I don't mean there is a conspiracy which suggests (like wrasslin') that it may be a performance piece. I mean people watch it. On TV. For hours. And then discuss the results. The money Pabst Blue Ribbon wisely invests in advertising during racing is guaranteed an almost immediate return.

Shop attendants who are overly friendly are not neccesarily "simple". Sometimes they are just actually friendly and it is wrong to assume otherwise. But play it safe if you get caught in an extended conversation due to a busted cash register. I suggest talking about light-colored beer and mumbling about the NFL. Do not mention a specific team. Also keep in mind that the Houston Oilers no longer exist for anyone living outside Tennessee. While in Tennessee, referring to them as the "Oilers" is also considered bad form.

Humming Dueling Banjos while in public is never funny to anyone not doing the actual humming. Therefore, enjoy it.

While visiting The South, only reference previously established yonders while asking directions. Only the locals know the exact conversion to the metric system for the local yonder and you will just waste everyone's time with improvisation. Also expect to get directions based on where things used to be. Even if you are from out of town, all directions you are given will include a reference to a left turn past where the Piggly Wiggly used to be.

"Ya'll" is plural. There are no exceptions. I prefer "you guys", but to be fair it is just to see people cringe.

Don't be offended if a stranger calls you "sir" or "ma'am". If there is a slight possibility that you are half an hour older than they are, this is the proper form of address.

Atlanta is pronounced "LAN-uh". I say this merely to illustrate that you should avoid using place names for anything while you visit The South. The street named "San Felipe" in Houston is pronounced in a way which is offensive to anyone who has ever had a Spanish class.

Even keeping all this in mind, there will be times when all attempts at blending will fail.

"You aren't from around here are you?" may very well be your first indication of this, as it was for me the other day while I signed up for cable.

The guy was nice about it, though. He thought it was almost funny that I am from Texas (Houston, while technically The South, is considered too big. For the record, the only two Southern cities are Atlanta and New Orleans -- But don't try to say the name of either place without practicing.).

I was upset that my finely crafted veil of local-ness had been destroyed almost casually by the guy within the first five minutes. What kind of skills did he possess? How tuned-in to the local culture was he to bust me, an accomplished thespian, with the old "you aren't from around here are you?"

As I'm always refining my craft, I asked. "What gave me away?"

Was it the fact that I found the screen displaying the Home and Garden Network more interesting than ESPN? Was it my backless shoes? My "Sex and Drugs and Dungeons and Dragons" T-Shirt?

"Your driver's license has a Houston address on it," he answered, sliding it back to me across the desk as he completed filling out my account information.

The guy at the cable office is a smart one.


Joe said...

If real men don't drink dark beer, what kind of men drink faux-imports from Golden, CO with an orange garnish?

Not that there's anything wrong with that ...

Garrick said...

That's low . . .

I only have a couple of six packs of those on hand.

As a diversion.

Jane said...

This is good, I'm writing all this down.

Sarasota is ALMOST the south. I have recently become acquainted with the term "beachbillies."

Also Garrick, today I spoke on the phone with a young woman from Columbia College...she had a chicken friend cliche of a Southern accent, it was truly wonderful.

Garrick said...

The accents are ADORABLE!

Sarasota has too many people from The North to really qualify, though it is an excellent "The South with Training Wheels" kind of place.