There's a scene in this episode of 30 rock, wherein Tina Fey's and Alec Baldwin's characters take a trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia in search of "real, middle-American talent." Tina Fey, skeptical about the existence of any kind of "real" American, expresses her worldview that all people are basically the same, having only the common desire to sit in peace and eat a sandwich. She sets this philosophy in action by ordering a carp sandwich "with extra chuckle" from a restaurant called Fatty Fat's Sandwich Ranch. Shortly after, at the hotel, Tina finds that the carp sandwich "is not agreeing with her worldview" and ends up toilet-side. Alec Baldwin enters to hand her a bottle of "Peppy Bismilk" sent up by the receptionist, at which an aggravated Tina Fey exclaims, "Why is everything a little different here?! I hate it!"
I think about this scene at least once a day, and it's not because I hate it here. It's just so true. For anyone who's spent any time in the American south, you know what's up. For those who haven't, let me just relate to you a few observations/incidents I've been witness to that have both delighted as well as given me pause:
- -Carl's Jr.? It's called Hardee's down here. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for this, but I was unprepared for it nonetheless.
- Everyone parks their vehicles on their lawns. Don't matter if your lawn is at an incline or 10ft x10 ft.
- People, especially big black mamas, aren't afraid to give you 'tude if you deserve it. My experience with old people prepared me for this a little bit.
- If you don't address a woman as ma'am, you're rude. I still haven't gotten the hang of this formality yet, which may be why I'm the recipient of so much 'tude.
- I actually heard someone say the phrase "Lawd Jesus" in exclamation the other day. For a middle-class suburban-raised white girl who's only known black vernacular in the form of young adult civil rights novels, it is exciting and actualizing to find that people actually talk like that.
- Everyone holds a yard sale every day. At least, I think that's what's going on...
- Why yes, I have seen someone riding their riding lawnmower down the sidewalk.
- The hottest hangout spot in town? It's called Cupcakes Y'all.
- There's always someone walking on the side of the road. Not hitchhiking - just walking, chillin' on the median, what have you, listening to their beatz and looking chillaxed. I debated throwing that last line in there cause it's maybe getting a little too racist, but it seemed essential to me in conveying to you just what I'm talking about.
- For anyone who thought maybe the so-called "Bible Belt" was a myth, I can tell you that there are a handful of well-to-do pastors down here who would have to disagree. I've never seen churches so big. Like Walmart Supercenters, I tell you.
- Guns. Ohhhhh, do people love their guns. I never thought I'd feel like such a black sheep for not owning one to keep in my purse at all times, but that day has come. And yet I can't shake the feeling that they're the weird ones, not me. Yes, I was officially raised in the Pacific Northwest.
- One Saturday night I was googling "things to do in Dothan, AL" (that ought to produce a chuckle right there) and came across a list that some poor, persevering soul had put together. The list consisted mainly of antique doll shops and golf courses, but there at the end, I found it: #25. Peanut Monument. Giant, gold peanut sculpture at Visitor Information Center helps to proclaim Dothan as Peanut Capital of the World." No offense, but we went to Cracker Barrel instead.
- I think I once heard somewhere that people in the south refer to all carbonated drinks as "Coke" (maybe that was a Utah thing? Getting my stereotypes mixed up). The point is, I believe it now.
Also, Exhibit B:
You get the gist. I love it down here, I really do. It turns out that Southern Hospitality is also a real thing, and I've been the recipient of it at every turn. I'm grateful for the cultural immersion I've experienced here and I look forward to many, many more culture shocks as I begin my new job in a somewhat ghetto part of town.*
Also, I feel like it's too late now to write some gushy post about being engaged and all that, but I will say that we're happy, in love, pretty scared, but also excited. Jdub is the source of everything good about me, and I feel so lucky that I get to be his Mdub soon and forever.
*Edit 3/7/12; Yep, I called it. Today on my first day of work, I not only got a rapper's business card (they're called The MiZfiTZ, and they wanna say thanks to all haters), but also made friends with an exotic dancer. The lady mentions that she's a dancer, and that she's buying this funky duct tape to tape her stilettos with. "Oh really, what kind of dance do you do?" I ask conversationally as I ring up her lime green lace panties. Did I mention I grew up white, middle-class, suburban and sheltered?