Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Modern Fable

Once upon a time, a shy Southern belle moved from Texas, where she had lived for 33 years, to the Northeast.

The clash of cultures was both inevitable and hilarious.

During her first year, the Southern woman (let's call her Barb because her name is...well..Barb) learned a lot of things that are never taught in the South.

Things like honking one's horn in traffic --despite her deep conviction that if she honked at someone, not only was she inviting someone to blow her head off (Texas being one of those states where the right to bear arms is taken literally and legally) but that she might be considered RUDE.

She learned that if she waited to be ceded the right-of-way, she would wait through many changing of lights and/or seasons.

She learned that giving people the benefit of the doubt was to invite their contempt.

She learned to speak up for herself. (Well, she's LEARNING to speak up for herself.)

She learned that the nicest tradespeople/contractors/service people in the world would screw her over in a heartbeat if it meant a few more dollars in their pockets. And that the prevailing attitude when she called them out on this was, "Well, you can't blame a guy for trying."

Barb tried to kill everyone with kindness and a sort of obliviousness to the blatant rudeness in her interactions with people. She learned that even positive interactions left her feeling bruised. She toughened up. She made some truly good friends who transcended the cultural divide and looked the other way when she said, "y'all" and tried to convert them to recycling.

Barb still thought she could still keep her innate Southern courtesy intact AND live productively in New York.

Until one day when she drove her youngest daughter to school in the driving rain. She unloaded her daughter from the van and gave her an umbrella and stood and watched as she crossed the crosswalk and headed into the school. Barb stood, waving, for an extra ten seconds so that when her small daughter turned around, she would still see her smiling, waving (and damp) mother.

And then the crossing guard yelled at Barb to get in her car and get moving because there was a lot of traffic and it needed to keep moving.

Barb got into her car and a little fire started burning.

She drove out of the parking lot, taking her life in her hands as usual and by the time she reached the cross street, her mouth was set in a thin, grim line.

She did not cry.

She did not feel like she had been sent to the Principal's office.

Barb was, in fact, very, very angry.

She ran through all the things she could have said. All the points to be made--like it took as long for the guard to yell at her as it did for her to send her daughter off to school on a good note. Like the fact that she often waits five minutes in line because other people drive up beside her and block her in. Like the fact that the tone the woman had used was both offensive and condescending.

Barb drove on, resolving not to use the drop off line anymore but to park her car and walk her small daughter up to the school doors to say goodbye.

By the time Barb reached home, though, she was past any idea of in any way modifying her OWN behavior.

In fact, by the next morning when Barb repeated the trek to drop her younger daughter off at school, she was toting a Texas-sized can of WHUP-ASS.

She was, my friends, spoiling for a fight.

She pulled up into the drop off line, put the car in park, helped her daughter with her backpack and watched her cross the crosswalk.

And then she stood there, waving and smiling as her daughter looked back one, two, three times.

And then Barb, turned and looked hard at the crossing guard, daring her to say one single word. And said, "Have a nice day" before getting in her car and driving away.

And that is the story of how a recovering Southern belle unleashed her hostility in defense of her right to be a warm and loving parent.

Which seems ironic on many, many levels.

Y'all, pity that crossing guard for the next time she yells at Barb.

16 comments:

Karen ~ said...

WOO-HOO! You go, girl!

Tiny Tyrant said...

Yup You go girl! I'd have been less than polite on both occasions. :-)

Kathy said...

But in your mind, you were flipping her off, right?

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Believe me, honey, she'll respect you more for it. We don't respect people who don't put up a fight.

Susan said...

Good on you! That was the very best way of handling that problem. I think that being Canadian is probably much the same as being a Southern Belle. We're both polite and patient.

Becca said...

yee haw, momma bear and her cubs confront the big bad wolf and win

Miriam said...

"recovering Southern belle" HA HAH HAH HAHHHAAAA (that's a belly laugh) You are so funny

also: MY HERO(INE)

Denise said...

Wow, this post is awesome. :)

Sherry Sea from Austin said...

Great post! Kind of scared now that I've read what you've said about local tradesmen. We're dealing with a lot of them these days.

Mary Ellen said...

Wow - you certainly told her. Maybe next time you should compliment her hair. That'll teach her.

Sarcasm aside, you did the right thing. I'm not from the south, but I think you rock the 'kill 'em with kindness' thing!

Ream O Rama said...

Aww, bless her little Yankee heart ;-)

ToyLady said...

This midwestern girl has had to learn to deal with much of the same . . . quirkiness in our fair state.

I am very impressed. :)

Panhandle Jane said...

Towanda!

Suna said...

You are sure doing a better job than I would. By the time you are my age, that southern politeness thing is too ingrained. I'll be saying, "Have a nice day" forever. So, I better stay in the south!

otter said...

it's hard to get used to folks out here. I grew up in Wisconsin, where it was normal to try and make life easier for others, not harder. The first time I found myself giving a "typical New York" response to someone, I went home and cried. I don't want to be assimilated!

kim said...

Honest, we're not all that bad in the Northeast. She was just an asshat.