“The hushpuppies are real good here,” he said.
“The what?” I questioned.
“The HUSH-PUHPPIES.” He repeated.
“What’s a hushpuppy?”
And then his face went blank and then maybe a little concerned/angry.
“What you mean ‘what’s a hushpuppy’?”
And I grew scared.
There I was, at my first meeting with a banker, Mr. Wally Dodson, and I blew it less than 30 seconds in. We were at what I think was the only restaurant in Wakulla County, called Treasure Coast.
“She’s from Miami”, my CFO clarified.
Wally was Chairman of the Board for BancServ, the part of FBA I’d be working in. We sometimes joke that Wally needs a translator when talking to the Miami bankers because his Southern drawl is so thick and in my opinion, charming. That day, it could be argued, I needed a cultural translator.
That was the day I learned what hushpuppies are. Wally was right, they were good there. It was a rough, but memorable moment. To this day, the site of Southern food makes my blood pressure go up a bit because it reminds me of the awkwardness I experience that day.
Living in the South, especially being from Miami, there was a lot I had to learn and learn to love in order to assimilate to the post-college Tallahassee way of life. At first, a lot of it irked me, made me anxious and aware of the fact that I was living in a city where the people weren’t like me. But now, I visit Miami, my home, and I can’t help but to think at times, oh mah word (hand goes gently toward my chest), how barbaric. Ok, let’s face it; I will never in my life say oh my word…
Point is, there’s a lot I learned from living in what is essentially South Georgia. Some of these nuggets may purely be a byproduct of growing up more so than living in Tally but regardless here they are.
What I learned from Living in the South
1. Everyone deserves a thank you note. In the past three years, I’ve written thank yous to friends, family, co-workers, employees at Delta, my dentist, nurses at my eye doctor’s office, church staff & volunteers, dental assistants… the list goes on. Writing thank you notes never went unnoticed, the way people (especially service employees) treated me once they knew I was grateful was always better. Alex had to stop me from writing a thank you note to the guy who recently sold me my car. He got a commission, babe. Alex lovingly reminded me.
2. Saying it’s nice to see you is a perfectly appropriate expression when meeting someone for the first time. This one used to drive me NUTSO but I now I use it when I am not sure I’ve met you before.
3. Everybody knows everybody. For real. So keep your mouth shut if ya ain’t got nothing nice to say about someone because chances are, you’re standing next to their mother, cousin, boyfriend, all of the above, when you said it.
4. If someone says bless your heart, you did something wrong.
5. When someone asks how are ya? They really want to know.
6. Saying hello to strangers is perfectly acceptable. And encouraged. (Unless you’re Teri Hill.[don’t be mad]).
7. No matter how long it takes someone to realize the light turned green, you don’t honk.
7a. When someone uses their turn signal, get this, you let them in! (Miami, are you reading?)
8. Everyone needs hobbies. In Miami, and during college, we mostly hung out. This doesn’t cut it in the south. If you’re a girl, you better be into taking pictures, blogging, interior design, DIY projects, or something else related to pretty things. Boys, you can hunt and/or fish, golf or do techy stuff.
9. Manners, manners, manners. Follow them, especially the ones regarding courtesy.
10. Lily Pulitzer, Croakies, Boat Shoes and Khaki Shorts are good fashion choices– just not for me.
11. China isn’t all that bad. I remember at my friend Natalie’s baby shower, we were served lunch on fine china (the presence of southern food already had me a bit riled up) and all I could think was please don’t break anything Jovanna, please don’t break anything. I was in a house that had way too many painted portraits of the family children, all seated with their hands folded neatly in their laps. The punch didn’t have nearly enough booze to drown my nerves. Now, I understand the purpose of fancy plates and crystal glasses, they’re an expression of celebration. Wait, what? I just lied.
In Sarasota, I guess I’ll learn the lessons that come from living in Heaven’s waiting room. I can’t wait for the wisdom of old people.
What other ones am I missing? What can’t I leave Tallahassee without knowing?