Shout out first to Her Highness himself, the Bitchy Waiter for adding me to his blogroll! You can read the pages of epic bitchiness and good laughs here:
Sorry if I sound overly WHOO! I couldn’t remember if it was two scoops of coffee to one cup of water or vice versa, so I’m drinking it and everything is FREAKING AWESOME! =)
Anyway, moving on: I was cruising my blogroll and came across the second-to-recent post by The Jaded Waiter, a class act if there ever was one to my pool hall redneck swag. You can read his post here as he questions the behavior of people from the North, first acknowledging the difference in cultural practices (what’s appropriate or polite in the South is not the same up North, vice versa) and how difficult it can be to deal with people like that when you suspect cultural differences have turned into “let’s mock the other guy”.
First, having grown up in the Far South (not quite Deep South, but not God’s Waiting Room, but not anywhere near the Mason Dixon Line) on the coast, I did grow up as the product of a Hispanic mother and a Yankee Father. I remember adopting an accent and some Southern sensibilities as my family grew to assimilate, and I do so when I was 18 and working in the food/bev industry. I have traveled the country and to Europe, speak multiple languages, have been drilled on varietals and mother sauces and haricots vert, and also can whip up a top shelf Classic Martini like I can an Adios Motherfucker. I am “in” but not “of” the South.
Jaded asked: “Do I strike these people as an aw shucks bumpkin who stands out like a turd in a pool and would never last a week where they come from? Probably. Can I live with that? What do you think?”
I admit to working with a lot of Yankee people who felt a small sense of superiority over the South for various reasons, and then some people who were arrogant as hell. One coworker commented how she spent high school catching the M train (I think it was M) from Nassau to Brooklyn and then taking the last one back to make it to class after a night clubbing, sweating out top-shelf vodka while her friends came off Ecstasy. Glamorous, no? To be in a huge city that’s a center for EVERYTHING and act like you stomped all over it growing up like it was nothing?
Others commented on how people being overly nice freaked them out: to be Southern nice in the North indicates you are about to have a Glock shoved up your nostril while someone who smells of last week’s garbage and crack residue rifles through your wallet.
Another Yankee contact commented on how up North, a misbehaving child could have been seized by its ear and taken to his or her mother in Public IF they were causing a royal ruckus. Here, you don’t DARE criticize someone’s parenting. Others comment on how “Bless his/her heart” or “How nice” are polite ways of saying “F*$& off/you” and indicate the absolute sham of Southern gentility. Many more are shocked at the blatant racism and homophobia that permeates the South, even more at how places strive to be cultural centers but fall short of major Northern cities.
So, for right now, we’re looking at an equal (roughly) number of criticisms on both sides in this culture clash. What can be done? Below are a list of suggestions for neutralizing culture clashes for the bettering of everyone involved, especially in the service industry based on my observations:
(1) Bluntness, forthrightness and plain speaking are values held dearly in the North, as opposed to the Southern way of gentility, politeness, and propriety. Be forthright and Northerners typically mellow:
Ensuring that a lot of gentility and “taking the long way” gets dropped from one’s speech normally delivers a conversation one from the North is accustomed to. This kind of “code switching” puts both people on the same page culturally. While Jaded’s hands might be tied by working in the industry at a higher echelon than I do, just being blatantly straightforward, with small bits of courtesy like smiles and “sir/ma’am” thrown in for good measure may deliver what is expected.
(2) “I don’t take my geography seriously, so you shouldn’t either”
I ran into a pleasant couple from Michigan who came to the Pub last night and were in my section enjoying a few beers before heading on out to a family reunion. When they stated their origin I immediately replied “How the hell did you wind up down here? Take a wrong turn at Albaquerque?” I made little jokes about “welcome to the land where the South will rise again!”, agreeing with notice of the blatant racism and segregation, and even made a bumpkin joke about how “you from a city which got them moving pictures?” with wide eyes. I don’t remember all the details of our conversation but I immediately poked fun at the South, and then threw out some stereotypes of the North to gently satire both our locales. When no one expressed superiority, it leads to conversation as equals.
Perhaps making jokes, especially well-worded ones, about both sides’ stereotypes could ease tension between people?
(3) Be a bitch/asshole.
I make my money by mixing unflinchingly good manners, great service and an attention to detail and by being a total bitch 70% of the time. People love it. People drive from other counties to see me when I wait tables or bartend and have done so for years. People put out bullshit, I call it…BAM! Perhaps what we consider slightly unmannered would be just the ticket to winning over a table that might not respond to a drawl and graciousness. Be creative! I have said “Woof” when someone snapped his fingers at me, thrown ice at customers, and I have a patented 1,000 yard glare of death used on customers who smack their cocktail glass on the bar repeatedly to get my attention. People toss out “champ” and “homeboy” and “HEY! HEY! HEY” to get my attention, to which I respond: “My name is Malachi. If you can’t remember an appropriate substitute is “sir”. Are we clear?” This up front ‘call out’ lays down the law, and a lot of people respond to that when they are straight-talking, meeting the least likely person to do so causes them to warm up.
I don’t know if I really communicated anything of value, but these are three tips I used to mellow North/South relations to my favor and allow me to control my section, not let it control me. I hope this helps Jaded! If not, well, blame the sludge I’m drinking (apparently it’s two cups of water to one scoop of coffee….DUH!)