When Southerners leave home- they face certain perils that have to do with customs, language barriers, expectations and leading a sheltered life. I’m talking about travel within the continuous United States, not abroad. It’s a given that travelling abroad brings it own set of perils. Southerners-
- Talk slower, our conversations have a certain twang,
- We tend to expect good manners, we like to wave and look folks in the eye, and smile smile smile-
- And let’s face it a Southern lady is going to flirt, unless she’s dowdy, plain and prim- even then, another region might bring out her innate abilities. I know it’s unlikely, but still, it could happen.
I love New York, Philadelphia and Boston; have been to each of them several times and would go back in a New York minute, yet I know I will face perils, fall in a trap of my own doing. New York is always the subject of much discussion among those of us who have actually left home from time to time.
I recall a friend telling me that she thought her taxi driver was a Sultan whose day job was to drive a cab but who surely had a bit part in the Broadway hit-Aladdin. Upon getting in the taxi, she squealed, ‘Harold Joe, ask this fine specimen of a man to take us to the Taj Mahal!’ The driver never spoke a word from airport to the hotel despite her exclamations the whole way!
Then, there is the issue of closet space in the hotel- there’s no room for her grandmother’s Humpback Trunk (just kidding but we do tend to seriously overpack) There is not even a hot plate for the Grits her mother insisted on sending. We need our space and our comfort food.
Speaking of housing, a young friend was moving to New York with her college roommate, the girl said, ‘I’m hoping we can find a Co-Op somewhere in the Village.’ Let me tell you, where I’m from- a Co-Op is the ‘Seed and Feed, Barbed Wire, Bush Hog Parts, Bedding Plants and Chainsaw Blade Shop’ and is certainly not in a Village! Now, why would anyone want to live in one of those? We understand the desire to go to New York to shop– however, the thought of moving there with all of that noise, sy-reens blaring all night (ambulances), underground subways- not to mention it’s cold as kraut; we cannot imagine actually living there full time! We warn our young, if they take a wild hair and want to leave home-
You don’t want to move off up there, you’ ll get mugged, lost underground on those subways, fall off the Brooklyn Bridge and not have a penny to your name to call your daddy to come get you!’
Then, we pull out the big guns and put the fear of God in them…‘It’s just isn’t done…a beautiful young lady running wild with no chaperone. It’s beneath you, I tell you- trashy.’ To be honest, if she’s got her heart set on moving, not a word we say will be heard. She will know we’re right, when those folks figure out that Mary Jim-
- Has to be waited on hand and foot,
- Stays on her high horse and
- Flirts- Who would hire her much less take her serious?
No doubt the food is wonderful- just takes a bit of getting used to. Still. Take Carnegie Deli. The waiters aren’t given to dawdling while a Southern lady gets oriented, situated and tries in vain to spread out-tote bag on the next chair and coat neatly folded over the chair back- Oh no, you’re jammed in there like a sardine next to folks who would rather not be in such close quarters either.
At Carnegie Deli, the waiters have no patience for a Southern lady taking her own sweet time perusing the menu, either. Here’s how it goes-
- ‘Hey Good lookin’ whatcha got cooking? (flirt) Why, don’t you look nice tonite? (cajole) What would you recommend? Oh, Corned Beef? My daddy likes to fatten up his hogs and beef cattle with Corn but his daddy always thought Grass Fed Beef was better.’
- ‘ Okay, lady I haven’t got all night here!’
- Her nostrils flare, she stiffens her spine- The nerve, the very nerve, trying to rush her like that!’
- ‘Whaddya have?’
- ‘ I, sir, am a lady, however, I am willing to overlook your rude behavior being as how you are obviously so overworked- I will have a corned beef- Harold Joe, are you getting loaf bread? I think, I’ll just go hog wild and get that rye bread! And sweet tea, please.’
- The waiter moves off in a huff, after shoving the little rack of sugar packets and yelling out near obscene language. When the corned beef sandwich is plopped down in front of her, it is huge…
- ‘Well now, Harold Joe, how do you expect me to eat all this? I do believe there’s a whole side of beef on my plate! There won’t be room left for a slice of that gen-u-ine New York Cheesecake!’
- The waiter sets down the bill in short order; she daintily slides over her daddy’s Black American Express Card- He says, ‘Cash only Lady!’
She about dies. Now in the first place, unless a Southerner has established who your people are and knows a little something about your background, she goes by the looks of you; your manners speak volumes about your character. And- Southerners get very uncomfortable discussing money…
- He should be able to tell by her looks that money is not an issue and her credit is impeccable;
- But to be so loud and bold about it, well.. it’s just a good thing Harold Joe has that big wad of cash in his billfold chained to his belt!
- Determined she will not lower her standards- her voice goes up a full octave- ‘Darlin’ would you accommodate this gentleman as soon as humanly possible?’
The mode of transporting Southerners is essential, we tend to like Double Decker Tour Buses- we always ride on top so we can see everything, waving to our hearts content- just like Dignitaries and Beauty Queens in parades back home. The peril of Tour Buses is with the earplugs– you won’t find a southern accent on any station- they offer French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese- the Southerner ends up saying, ‘It all sounds Greek to me, I didn’t understand a word he said.’
It’s perilous for folks from the Lower Coastal South to go to the top of Skyscrapers- I heard one lady tell her husband she just knew they were up higher than Look Out Mountain, Tennessee. She felt faint right before her knees buckled.
Times Square is perilous too- there’s so much going on it’s hard to concentrate, not to mention the half naked traffic controller. He might have on patriotic skivvies and cowboy boots (Harold Joe is convinced he’s an undercover cop), but really! No self respecting Officer of the Law would be caught dead in a get-up like that in my part of the country! Broadway Shows are where we really shine…
- Since a Southerner will pay an enormous amount of money for tickets to an SEC game-
- Tell them they can get 50 yard line tickets (ahem, front and center Orchestra theatre tickets) They will pay whatever the price…
- We might not understand the ‘will call’ issue but we do love the playacting and the crazy characters on Broadway…
After all, given the choice, we tend to love the most Bizarre Plots and Twisted Tales especially when a Skeleton clatters out of a Closet! We will always favor the Eccentric Aunt or the Crazy Uncle- Every. Single. Time! Yes, there are perils associated with leaving home… then again, we subject ourselves to it over and over again! Now, you know I’m gonna say this… Like all good Southern tales, this one is part truth, part myth and part outright lies! Hopefully, good for a laugh or two!
Love y’all, Camellia
P.S. I love Philadelphia, time would not permit my southern experience with ordering Philly Cheesesteaks! I love Boston- it makes me laugh to hear those folks say- ‘Get in the CA’… not too estranged from a Southern accent- Hah-vahd Squah…just slays me! And, I truly love New York! One of my very dearest friends lives in New York ! Hello and love you Elizabeth!
And…I have mourned, truly mourned the closure of Carnegie Deli, but hey, there’s always Katz’s!
*Photographs are obviously mine (excuse the mixed tones!) However, the two beauties by the car, and the one in the driver’s seat- belong to Jeremy Miniard- I love those vintage pics Jeremy! www.jwminiard.fineartsofamerica.com Go say hey to Jeremy!