Friday, January 25, 2008

My pants are on fire. Give me some unsweetened tea.

I have a habit of copying the accent of whoever I am talking to and it is one of those things that I just can't help doing. It's like a reflex. You say ya'll, I say ain't. You say where he at? I say he be at wal-mart. I'm sure people find this a very endearing quality as I appear to openly mock them by fumbling along in their particular dialect with my Minnesotan pronunciations. Once you've lived here for at least 6 months, your mouth forms an O and stays there. You start speaking like you are some kind of Swedish/German/Canadian hybrid. OH ya, I bet she didn't like that, eh? The oh ya must be said with a sing song, like you are yodeling across the valley to a neighbor, hoping they will join you later for lutefisk and/or clogging.

In the south everything happens in s - l - o - w - m - o - t - i - o - n. Even the words come out slowly, like people just can't muster up the effort to get them out any faster. I attribute it to the heat. When it's that hot and humid out, what's the hurry? Let's all just relax, take it down a notch and watch some Nascar.

I never picked up any kind of accent in the south (except when I was unsuccessfully mimicking someone), but I did learn a few very important lessons. Lesson number one: When someone gives you a date and time that they will arrive to fix something or hook something up at your house, they ACTUALLY mean they will be there three days later. Obviously you are some kind of uptight, crazy workaholic if you think that someone should be there on time...IN THIS HEAT and with all these bugs to swat at.

Lesson number two: Iced tea is not iced tea. It is sweet tea. Here is the recipe: Make iced tea. Very refreshing. Now add two tablespoons of sugar. Pretty good. Add thirty more. Done! At a restaurant, you must specify if you want unsweetened tea, but when you do they will almost always bring you sweet tea anyway, because they're sure that's what you meant. For the kids, if you order milk, you will have to repeat it 3 times if you are not imitating the accent properly. They will still not understand what that word is that's coming out of your mouth and will finally conclude that you are saying Coke.

Lesson number three: The people are friendly! Be prepared for people on the street to talk to you like you have known each other your whole lives. I liked that, but it always caught me off guard. My natural reaction tends to be "alright, what are you selling?" when approached by strangers. I am very approachable.

Up north of course, we don't have the heat to slow us down. We have the opposite problem. People run around this time of year like their pants are on fire. They are actually trying to prevent their nose hairs from shattering. Living up north, lesson number one: Move with a purpose or parts of your body will turn blue and die. And no one around here will have any sympathy for you. You might score a free ride on the back of a Ski-Doo, but that's about it.

Lesson number two: Don't approach strangers unless you need a shovel or their money. They will assume you want their shovel or their money and will react accordingly. If you don't want either of these things, they will be insulted. There's no time for chit chat when it's -50 and your eyelids just froze shut.

And lesson number three: The most important member of society in our city is a meteorologist. He knows whether today will be unsafe for exposing bare flesh or unnaturally warm or raining brimstone from the sky. Everyone in the city will pop their umbrellas open, smile, shrug and say, "George said it would be like this!"


Becky said...

You are so right on. I love the South very, very much, but it's a strange place to visit. It's like walking into (what I imagine) would be a time capsule.

Since I live in the North, I am well versed on being quick and fast and rude.

And I hate sweet tea.

cameo said...

you are so damn funny.
chris was reading this over my shoulder and thought so too!
one question? any take on the midwest?
wait wait!! maybe i don't want to know.

Jessi Louise said...

becky - i totally agree on the time capsule. i saw a few places that looked just like Tara from Gone With the Wind.

cameo - the midwest is safe for now ;)

Defiantmuse said...

LOL. I'm from New Orleans and you're dead on about the south.