There are few things in my life that really annoy me, as opposed to the number of things that just generally annoy me. Having NO SENSE, or as I prefer to call it, BEING STUPID, and its close cousin, BEING INCONSIDERATE, rate up there in the annoyances that generate a blog rant.
Welcome to my rant.
The South has an undeserved reputation for being slow and talking funny. Well, ok, people do talk funny here, but the reputation for slow is misunderstood. It’s a different culture in the way that each region of the United States is a different culture, too.
Southerners, perhaps because of the agricultural economy, are just not in a hurry. Think about it. Unlike in the industrial areas, ruled by factory shifts and assembly lines, things around here get done when they’re done. It’s not better or worse, just different.
For example, if I have to take a file to an office on another floor, I’ll chat with the secretary for a moment and ask after her momma ‘n ’em before plopping the file on her desk. She’s competent — it’ll get done. Skipping the pleasantries isn’t going to make her work any faster. In fact, I’d venture to say that precisely because of the human touch I’m likely to get good service (not that it’s my motivation in this case).
That human touch, sometimes called southern hospitality, is what I want to share with you. It’s saying “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am” and “Please” and “Thank you.” Opening doors for women.
Pulling over to the side of the road when a funeral procession passes and staying put out of respect, for the deceased as well as the family.
That one is a little unusual for me. I have to admit that while I spent my childhood in Atlanta, the later formative years of living in Miami, you know, that southernmost burrough of New York City, turned me into a Yankee. The last almost fifteen years of living in the South again have retrained me. Still, I was kind of taken aback the first time I saw every single car pull over to the side of the road for a funeral procession. I’m no dummy. I did the same and quickly learned that it’s one of those things that’s done out here.
Of course, that was many years ago. Today, there are strip malls where I would have pulled over. McDonald’s and Burger Kings litter the landscape, and poison, not just our bodies, but our minds with the need to rush. To get moving.
To not slow down, not even for the anonymous reminder of our mortality.
Today, sadly, we buried a dear friend of the family. It was a tough week. It’s a journey we all have to take and something that I experience more and more as I get older. As Catholics, we are called to a powerful but often difficult task of burying the dead. This corporal act of mercy requires that we do one last thing — bury the deceased with dignity and respect, and provide the family and friends with the solace through the beautiful funeral rites, that all who love the Lord have the promise of eternal life. Funerals are sad, but filled with consoling graces.
Funeral processions, on the other hand, are just short of circuses. Thankfully, the family is up front, and probably too grief-stricken to be aware of the insanity that follows them through the streets on the way to the cemetary.
As luck would have it, we ended up as the second or third car after the family. We were moving through the streets at a steady pace, escorted by motorcyle cops that stood at attention when they weren’t corralling us through lights. A number of people pulled over to the side of the road. In fact, quite a few people, and we were in the city, where I would expect a large number of transplants and “fer-ners.”
Unfortunately, there were more morons than not on the road. At first, I was sad that this last little piece of southern culture seemed to be on its way out when a psycho-pig zipped alongside us and couldn’t wait for the procession to pass. No, this idiot actually cut into the funeral procession! Yes! I still can’t believe it. This guy wedged himself into the procession, travelled with us for several miles, and then turned off when he got to his destination.
I don’t know which makes me angrier, that he could possibly be so callous and disrespectful that it was an intentional act, or that he was so totally unaware of his surroundings and the world and customs and everything that he would totally ignore all the clues like cops and lights and flashers and, oh, I dunno, A HEARSE.
I would have given him the benfit of the doubt and imagined that he was rushing home to his pregnant, in-labor wife, only, no. He pulled into a Publix. I guess he needed to get a box of Dings Dongs to match his critical thinking skills.