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Monday, October 3, 2016

More Southern hospitality


Living in the Mid Atlantic region you’re not really in the north or the south and sometimes it depends on who’s asking. If you live in a metro area you are more accustomed to a fast paced lifestyle. You get use to it. Not sure if it’s the pace or living in zip codes instead of actual towns, but when you leave the hustle of the Washington metro area heading south there is a marked increase in hospitality and friendliness. I wrote on this topic once  before (Southern hospitality June 2016) and it was noticed again on two separate trips this year. Maybe being from out of town you expect to be treated as such or maybe there is a real difference. Whatever the reason, it is welcomed and why we enjoy traveling thru the South.

Hospitable
While in Alabama near the Georgia line and always on the lookout for BBQ, we came across a little place not much bigger than a shack, but on a late Sunday morning the place was packed. We stopped for some take out and the bill came to $15.10. All I had on me was $20 and other bills. Not wanting to short this small business a dime I told the cashier I’d have to run out to the car. There was a nice older lady waiting for her order near the register. She immediately spoke up and offered a dime to cover me.

Now this wasn’t a great act of kindness that will save mankind. It was only a dime. However, everyone seemed to know each other. I’m sure I was pegged for an out of towner. This lady didn’t need to say a word. But she spoke up and opened her purse. Probably, “A had to be there” moment, but it was very touching. And the BBQ was excellent! What made it for me was the Georgia style mustard BBQ sauce, which I had fallen in love with on an earlier trip to the area and seek out whenever I’m in the Deep South. But this isn’t a food blog.

The second trip took us through the Carolinas and did not disappoint. Everyone we came across was astonishingly friendly. People speak to you when passing-wish you a good day-Cashiers, clerks, hotel employees, everyone.

Visiting an antique store in North Carolina we were greeted by a friendly proprietor that was not extraordinary, especially with the theme of this blog. But what was surprising was his willingness to get out from behind the counter, engage us in conversation, and point out the different collections within the store. The openness and hospitality to strangers that we come across again and again. Now I’ll give him a bit of salesmanship, I mean why not be friendly and show people around. Only going to increase sales. But we have been in plenty of stores, similar and otherwise, where the clerks/managers/owners could care less. You’re lucky of they make eye contact.

During our visit we came across another shopper. He was looking around just like us. After a few excuse me’s and pardon me’s (small store) we began commenting on what each other was examining. A chat started and for the next ten minutes we had the most enjoyable conversation with the gentleman. We parted with a hardy handshake, a God Bless, and safe travels.

To top off our visit, the proprietor had learned we were passing through on the way North. He wanted to make sure that we knew about the gasoline shortage. (Having disconnected for a few days we completely missed the Alabama pipeline leak that was affecting the entire South) Stations were running out of gas and he encouraged us to top off before leaving town, giving us a few suggestions on which stations still had gas.

I texted a friend who was vacationing in South Carolina at the time to make sure he knew about the gas shortages. He replied that he did, receiving the information from a friendly southerner the same as me. “Amazing”, he wrote. “can’t see that happening at home”

Sunday in the south
Several years ago we had just gotten off the interstate in North Carolina, checked in to our hotel, and went looking for dinner in the nearest town. Unfamiliar with the area we thought that what was once a thriving town had been denigrated by the loss of industry or a box store shopping center. The town looked like it had some business but every thing was closed, no one around.

Then it finally hit us. It was Sunday evening, in a small town, in the South. Nothing was happening or was it going to happen. But that was OK. It’s refreshing to come across old time values. Take a moment to slow down and observe the day of rest.

Well, we fell for it again. The night before visiting the aforementioned antique store we did some exploring for what we might do the next morning. Again, the town looked deserted. Nothing open, no one out and about. Save for the few people you saw sitting on their porches enjoying the unseasonably cool summer evening. Wondering what had sucked the life out of the town we came back to our initial finding-Sunday in the South. It’s just the way it is.

We could all take a few lessons from these experiences. Wave and say hi to strangers. Take a break on Sunday. The world might just be a better place.

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