Southern Hospitality

When I started this blog, its primary purpose was to document my cross-cultural experiences.  In the past couple of years, I’ve tended to drift away from these topics–not because I don’t have enough topics like that to blog on having moved to the South, but more because I’ve been…teaching.  For this post, I’d like to go back to that purpose.

So if my readers (though I know they are few and far between) might join me for a moment in enjoying Southern hospitality, I would be glad to share what exactly prompted such a return in topic.

Today school called for a two hour delayed opening due to an ice storm that came through last night.  I used to scoff when the South shut down for things like that, but I have a new respect for these decisions after today.

I drove into school early because I needed to prep sub plans before leaving for an appointment an hour and a half away.  Ten minutes after I got to school, the 2-hr delay became a no school day.  So I started driving to the big city for my appointment.

As I pulled out of school, I knew that the roads were not in the best condition.  Not being able to stop completely before turning right at a stop sign showed me that.  [Please note: this post is not to highlight my own stupidity and lack of common sense–I’m very aware of that and chalk it up to never having driven on black ice, despite having lived in New England for four years.]  I made a mental note to myself to be careful and kept going.

About fifteen minutes down the road, I discovered what black ice does.  One of the things it does is prevents you from braking effectively.  As I far too rapidly approached the car in front of me, I realized that I had two options: either rear-end the car, or turn into the ditch.  I opted for the ditch, and effectively spun into the median of US-64.  Stuck in the frozen-mud-turned-slush, I could not get out. [This post is also not make you all worried–I’m fine.]

Literally within 5 minutes of sitting in the ditch, a truck carrying three construction workers pulled over and the guys inside pushed my car out.  I reiterated my previous mental note: be careful.

Despite the shimmy in my car, I kept going, though it became a 45 mph trip instead of anything more.  And about 15 minutes later, the black ice continued.  As I was trying to change lanes, the car lost traction again, and another spin out was underway.  I missed a speed limit sign by a few feet and ended up with the front of my car on the shoulder of the road and the back end of the car slipping into the ditch on the side of the road.

Not two minutes after that had happened, a van had pulled over.  Five minutes later, there were two other trucks pulled over helping me get the car out and going again.  With a combination of pushing, braking, and driving on the grass, we were going again.  Mental note: be very, very careful.

I was struck by the graciousness of North Carolinians to pull over immediately and help, especially since the ice posed some danger for them also.  In both circumstances, the span of time between me spinning out and someone stopping was less than five minutes.  Sometimes I wonder if this would have happened in other states, or even closer to the city.  I remember as a kid sitting on the side of the road for much longer than that because our second-hand car had overheated again.  Not in North Carolina.

For obvious reasons, I ended up stopping at the Toyota dealership during my time in the big city to have them look at my car.  There was no way I was driving an hour and a half back when the steering wheel was visibly shaking at 40 mph.

When I walked into the dealership in New Jersey to buy my car, I had the feeling that the only thing they were trying to do was take my money.  However, North Carolina car dealerships are slowly inching their way up the list of favorite places for me to spend my time in.

When I walked in I must’ve looked a little lost.  “Are you being helped?” a jolly looking guy asked.

“Uh, not yet, but if you could help me, that would be great,” I replied.

“Yeah, you had that lost look about you.  Have you been here before?”

“Nope.”  This followed by a series of questions about what was wrong with my car.  Not long after he walked into the waiting room to explain what was wrong with the car and what they would do to fix it.

“Are you comfortable?  Can we get you anything?” he asked about twice during our conversation.

I assured him I was fine.  After he gave me the quote, I half jokingly asked if they gave a teacher discount.

“Yeah, absolutely!” was the answer he gave.  About an hour and a half later I walked out with 10% off the total for being a teacher.

During my two hours sitting in the dealership, I watched as not only the serviceman working with me, but nearly every other serviceman greeted the other customers waiting by name and had conversations with them.  I saw how much they knew their customer’s stories, and realized how much people in the North often miss out on the stories and how those stories impact people.

Like I said before, my goal tonight is not to highlight my own ineptitude of driving on ice (you can call it foolishness), nor to worry my parents any more than I already did by calling them on their evening telling them I’d gotten stuck in a ditch.  Rather, I was reminded of one of the many things that the South has to offer: a genuine hospitality and concern for others.  I often don’t like being the person in need and having to be on the receiving end of it, and sometimes I admittedly fail to extend that helping hand when others are in need, but I think that the example that North Carolina gave me today is definitely something to aspire to.

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