April 24, 2002
Southern Hospitality My Ass.
I was born in the midwest and have lived in the midwest most of my life. Here's a summary of the regional stereotypes that came in my Welcome-to-Detroit-Fresh-Unformed-Infant package.
Northeast: Bunch of atheist eccentrics with poor eyesight. Them as ain't atheists is Catholics. Overly educated, way too talkative, rushed, prone to wearing black, and profoundly immoral.
Southeast: Rich and degenerate, these sighing drawlers attend decorous baptist churches and come home to diddle the servants they wish were still slaves. They think back fondly to top hats and hoop skirts, and read trashy novels, and eat mint pie. They like having company over.
Southwest: Rough and rugged cowboys with low IQs who eat jerky and wear boots. Swearers, horse riders, sunset starers, land ravagers, Mexican oppressors, squinters.
California: Hippies, goons, militant environmentalists, who wear sandals in the winter time and advocate seals. Probably they all know how to kayak. Probably they vote for strange parties of which we have never heard. Probably they reject meat as a food product.
Midwest: We're not brusque, we're succinct. We're not dull, we're stable. We're not fat, we're well fed. We look this way because we CHOOSE to reject the transient fashions of the coasts. We have not read anything that was written in this century. We are protestants. We eat beef because it is good for us. Okay, okay, we're big fat hostile dullards whose vocabulary does not extend beyond elementary school textbooks, although we religiously study Reader's Digest, in fact we look forward to its arrival every week. Because there is nothing else to do here besides fondle corn.
SO. Coming as I do from what I considered to be the second meanest region in the country, and going as I was to the fine city of Atlanta, across the great state of South Carolina, I expected the degenerate socialites to at least be polite to me. I mean, southern hospitality, what what? Y'all come back now, and so on? Set a spell? Take yer shoes off? Etc? I was driving from Norfolk Virginia to Atlanta Georgia. Nothing but south all the way. A smooth sail.
My first run-in with the hospitable southerners came at 11:15 pm. I know it was 11:15 because the truck stop had just closed. I was at the truck stop because my child had filled his diaper with something that had to be immediately removed. Something narsty in the woodshed, don't you know. So, since there was a McDonald's at the same exit, I trundled us over there, and went to the door. Two girls behind the counter. Excess of hair and they knew it. I understood from the sign on the door that the restaurant had closed. So I pounded on the door. They ignored me. I pounded. They ignored. I hollered.
There I was, short tired traveler lugging giant baby with diaper full of poo, standing outside the door. There they were, teenagers who were perfect in every way and understood the world to its last detail, inside. And they IGNORED ME. They went so far as to turn their backs (while standing behind the counter) and take off their visors and flip their hair around in my direction. Oh, the anguish. So I banged on the door.
"CLOSED," said one agitated teenager, who had just endured the agony of turning to address me.
"I know," I said, "I just please need to use the bathroom, to change my baby."
They turned back around. At great length one of them ambled back into the back and a child I presume was the manager came out and said to me slowly, so I could understand, "AFTER ELEVEN PEE EM WE CANNOT OPEN THIS DOOR."
So I got out my changing pad, plopped him down on the sidewalk, and changed that poopladen diaper right there in front of the door. Did I leave it there? Yes. Am I sorry? No. Nor am I sorry that several would-be patrons came up to the door during my activity, only to be told by me that this restaurant was closed because everyone in it was mean. I believe I said, "They are very hostile and ugly in there."
THANKS, SOUTH. APPRECIATE IT.
So, I am on my way back. I have been traveling without a driver's license, unbeknownst to me, for about a year and a half. Apparently these things expire. Right before my trip to Atlanta I realize this and try several times to get a new one but never have the right paperwork, so I just say HEY and go anyway. So I am nervous constantly about getting arrested and executed for having no license and I do not speed.
SO I am at a gas station filling my car with gas. And a policeman strolls up to me (in a very Southern way) and says, "Are you aware that the front half of your car is falling off?" I am very relieved because I had been expecting him to say "Come with me, please, because you have no driver's license."
"No," I say, "I'm not aware."
At this point he begins to stroll (Southernly) back to his vehicle, as if he was done with me.
"WAIT," I say, and I scoot around to the front of the car. Sure enough, a big hunk of plastic something under my car is falling off and has clearly been scraping along the ground for some miles.
"Can't you just kick it off?" I ask. I have a vague recollection of someone somewhere kicking some offensive piece off the front of my car because it was half falling off. He laughs. Cruelly. He cannot do this. He tells me that I should go to "One of the shops" and get it fixed.
I am on an interstate exit, at six pm on a Sunday. I don't know where "One of the shops" is and I'm positive "One of the shops" isn't going to be open RIGHT NOW and so WHAT DO I DO? He strolls away. Laughing. LAUGHING. HA HA laughing. Not even chuckling. LAUGHING.
So, because I am plucky and resourceful, I find a binky strap and a head scarf in my car and I get down on my back under the car in my little silk shirt and flowered pants and I tie up this terrible ugly piece of plastic, BREATHING IN GAS I AM SURE, and scraping myself on things, and being poked in the eye by some gasket or plunger or other, and I fix it. And I drive off, and do not go to a shop and never get it fixed. And to this day it is like that. Did one person stop? In that busy gas station? NOT ONE. Did one of those fine southern gentlemen who wandered past me stop and say, "Are you alright?" Or... "Do you need some help?" No. Not one. THANKS SOUTH.
No, you know what? THANKS FEMINISM. THANKS THANKS THANKS.
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