"When you get those rare moments of clarity, those flashes when the universe makes sense, you try desperately to hold on to them. They are the life boats for the darker times, when the vastness of it all, the incomprehensible nature of life is completely illusive. So the question becomes, or should have been all a long... What would you do if you knew you only had one day, or one week, or one month to live. What life boat would you grab on to? What secret would you tell? What band would you see? What person would you declare your love to? What wish would you fulfill? What exotic locale would you fly to for coffee? What book would you write?"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's a Southern Thang

I have spent the last five days in Kentucky, on the border of Ohio (we literally took a walk to Ohio). In my mind, we were travelling horizontal from New Jersey, and it wasn’t until we arrived and the valet park attendant said “Ya’ll have a nice day now” that I realized we were indeed, “South”. How the heck did we do that?

I have had a great time, though! The very first thing I realized about Cincinnati, Ohio was that it was so Clean. Like, seriously clean. I knew Chicago was cleaner than NYC, but is all of Ohio so clean? The entire city looks as if it has been plucked out of one of those freaky Inception dreams where everything is surreal. The buildings so new, the sidewalks so fresh, no construction, the windows so polished….seriously.

But the real funny difference in culture when travelling hours away is the people.

Lets take the following scene, for example.

This is how it goes down in Kentucky:

You approach a Starbucks. But magically, someone has the door open for you already because everyone is just that nice. You walk in. At least five different people (strangers) say hi to you, on your way in or their way out. If you dare whip your phone out and text someone while you’re on line, at least three different people (this actually happened) will find a way to make conversation with you, somehow. The conversation will be a legit conversation that requires effort and adequate responding on your part. Just when you think your conversation is over, someone behind you in line pops in with, “Hey ya’ll I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I just thought your conversation was so intriguing and I must join in with my own input.” So then you, the original conversationee and another person are still talking about the weather. And none of you have ordered your coffee. The cashier looks at ya’ll standing side by side (makes conversation easier) and doesn’t know who is next. And I kid you not, everyone in line will encourage everyone else to go first and I heard “I’m in no rush, please you go ahead” said at least five times. And everyone smiles, all the time. At 7:30 in the morning. Its like Disney world. When I did make it up to the cashier and ordered, it turned out they were out of my favorite brand of tea. I said it was okay if I got a different one, but she insisted on going to their back room and finding the restock of my tea. And no one in line complained. And their tip jar for the cashiers was FULL. It took four times as long to stand in line and wait for my order, but I made three new friends (two other wedding photographers and 1 other a sound/filmmaker. )

Now Lets take the same typical scene in New Jersey/ New York:

You approach the starbucks. You open your own damn door. You stand in a long line, but it usually moves pretty fast because everyone goes fast. Absolutely no one talks to each other in line and everyone is either 1) talking on a cell phone 2)texting on a cell phone 3) doing anything else on a cell phone 4)playing with a tablet/ipad 5)reading the newspaper in their hand 6) reading the newspaper on their phone 7)watching the TV screen for the latest news. In fact, everyone else has their phone out so you pretty much feel compelled to do SOMETHING on your phone, even if you just checked your facebook,email and all your recent text messages right before you approached the starbucks. Its okay, do it again there could be something new. Besides the business man yelling into his cell phone (usually at the same time he’s trying to order), the only other chatter you’ll hear is the occasional set of friends chit-chatting in line and it will be about business, or about the coffee they ordered. It is RARE for strangers to talk to each other and if they do its usually because one feels like they did something to the other that warrants a half-felt “sorry” (i.e. bumped into one another ever so slightly [northern people never like to touch]). On occasion you’ll have the out-of-stater that asks how that brand of coffee is because he’s trying to make conversation, and he’ll get a “Its good.” (with a smile-maybe) in return. On the good side, you move through the line quickly, you get your order quickly and you get out quickly. On the bad side, you make no new friends. Also, if your favorite tea brand is out- sorry for you. You BETTER have a back up order ready to go in your mind or else you’re gonna get some audibly grumpy people in line behind you. Also, I have never seen a tip jar at a starbucks, ever around here.

It’s not even like I just noticed this. Its not just Ohio and its not just New York City/ NY/ NJ. In all my travels I have seriously generally noticed this sharp difference in American sub-cultures. Its astounding.

I wonder why this is, though? Why the “South” is known for generally being slow (physically- not cognitively), but for being very nice. The “North” I think is known for being fast-paced, grumpy, all attitude and ready to push you out of the way. Also, when I told one of my new found Starbucks friends that I was from New Jersey, she immediately thought “Jersey Shore” and asked if Jersey was all interstates and factories like that. *Slam face against wall now*.

But I guess what I’m trying to say here is that even though the North has that reputation in public, it doesn’t mean we’re automatically bad people, it just means we have grown up where things move fast, you get things on demand, you move fast, you get things fast, you do things fast, you constantly have at least one piece of technology on your body or in purse, and you have checked at least one form of social media (twitter, facebook, email, text) within the last ten minutes. It’s all on how we’re raised, how life is grained into us from the beginning. What’s taught to us about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

On that theory, I would love to meet someone who grew up constantly on the move around the world and United States. I wonder what culture they adapt to. That would be an interesting sociology project.

Even though I brand the North here with a horrible reputation and I give the South a nice reputation (I think I did, at least), I don’t think I could live in the South. Is that so wrong? Is it wrong to love the Northern culture, where everyone is opinionated, grumpy and quick? No. Because I think we’re also intelligent, effective, cultured, and undeniably witty.

I’m sure if I moved to somewhere South and lived there for awhile, I would get used to it. Then, when visiting or returning back North I would probably hate how the people are. Like I said, its all what you are used to at the current time. I think 87% of Humans don’t like change. I just made that up.

In order to survive in the North, you have to make it your own. People will not openly talk to you like they will in the South. If you want to meet people, you have to target them and make your own conversation. You have to be bold. Say what’s on your mind. If you want to be shy here, that’s okay- but you won’t get noticed and that’s just that. I kept to my shy self in Ohio and still 3 people wanted to talk to me in Starbucks.

The reason why I’ve been in Ohio is for another convention (another blog post coming up). At the end of the convention the announcer said, “Well, all that have come from far and near, I hope you all leave with a new friend you didn’t have before”. Me and my dad looked at each other and laughed. “Nope!” We both thought. Oh well. I’ll try harder next time….

See Ya'll later,
PS- if any of my readers are from Kentucky, Ohio or anywhere thats branded as being "South", then I hope I didn't offend you. You're lovely, thats the point. You're all so lovely its nauseatingly lovely. I'm just astounded how different people are based on where they live, and thats my point. Have a nice day! :)

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