After living in various parts of the country, and recently moving to a new one, I have realized that you can tell where you are by traditions, “customs” and quirks in different areas.
For instance, even if I was blindfolded, I could tell I’m in the Midwest by things such as:
- Having the choice between unsweetened tea and what is known as sweet tea (sometimes pronounced as one word – sweettea): And if you don’t specify which one you want, you get something as sweet and sometimes as thick and syrupy as pancake topping. Shudder. (This is also prevalent in the South.)
- Being called hon (short for honey), darlin’ or sweetie (they also do this in the South): It wasn’t until a waitress said that to me in my first week back in the Midwest that I realized I have been doing that to other people for years. It’s a habit of years of Southern and Midwestern living.
- Every driver in every direction pulling off the road for a funeral procession: In some states, it’s the law that funeral processions get the right of way. But in the Midwest, and even more so in the South, it’s the people’s law that you pull over, now, and wait until the last car has gone by. I like it.
- Roadside memorials: Yes, I realize people do this all across the country, but nowhere else (except maybe the South) do they go all out, and even put flowers and other objects at them for years after someone died in a traffic accident. I’ve seen memorials that are fresh and clean more than 20 years after they were started.
- Rural driving: When you are driving rural, stop signs are just suggestions and there are no speed limits. And tractor trailers on interstates in rural areas refuse to move over when you’re getting on. I’ve had to almost come to a complete stop, because a big truck just wouldn’t move. You have to drive defensively in the country far more than anywhere else.
- Flowers in the cemetery: There is a huge local cemetery that is always heavily decorated, year round. I assumed that the cemetery workers do this or maybe the funeral homes. After all, many graves go unvisited and even neglected in most of the cemeteries I have visited. However, I asked a relative about this the other day and he told me the families and others left behind do the decorating. “Wait until it gets warm out,” he said. “You’ll see people out there having full picnics at many of the stones.” All I can say to that is wow.
And then there have been things that have caught me by surprise here, such as:
People often mispronounce words or use the wrong words. (A few examples: 1. I was helping a woman today with her computer and she told me I needed to launch Godzilla if I wanted to get on the Internet. I had no idea what she meant until she pointed at Mozilla Firefox. 2. I was at my local library’s coffee stand and the woman at the counter told me they only had “two of these lovely blueberry sconces left.” Needless to say, those were not things to hang on the wall to light up the place, but rather delicious scones. 3. A waitress asked me the other day if I wanted naynays on my sandwich. A dining partner had to tell me that was a local pronunciation of mayonnaise.)
A trip to my local Walmart (the most affordable grocery choice for a writer trying to make a living on her own) brought anger from a sales clerk. I had been told the store price-matches other stores; you just have to tell them the price and where else it is and they’re supposed to match it. I’ve been having great luck with that (and have gotten some good deals without having to go from store to store for things I want/need) until a clerk on a recent trip angrily whipped out her phone and spent nearly 10 minutes keeping me and everyone else in line waiting while she tried to find the ad I was talking about. Was the 18 cents off per can coming directly out of her paycheck?
A trip to my local Goodwill store for used books brought an interesting encounter with a judgmental sales clerk. I asked whether they had any books from the “Twilight” series. (I’ve been upgrading my paperbacks to hardbound books when I can find them reasonably priced and in good condition.) The clerk glared at me and said, twice, “We don’t carry THOSE kinds of books.” When I asked her what she meant, she said they don’t stock books with the devil or vampires in them. (However, they did have many religious books, which some of them no doubt mention Satan…)
And here is one of my favorite encounters. A trip to my local library brought even more judgment. I saw on a shelf a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.” As I smiled and jokingly apologized to the older women at the checkout counter about the title, one crossed her arms and said, “Oh, we know what book THAT is.” Another said, “I don’t approve of THAT word.” The great thing was when I said, “Well, I thumbed through the book and it looks like it has some great lessons in it, like not caring what other people think,” the irony sailed right over their heads.
What traditions, “customs” or quirks do people have where you live? Leave a comment below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share it with family and friends, and on social media!