Worth the Wait?

I’ve noticed that, in the South, cashiers will chat their hearts out to each customer. Regardless of how many people are in line, the person being rung up is the most important human in the world.

On the West Coast this sort of behavior would get you shot.

But when you stop and think of it, isn’t almost worth the wait to be treated like a neighbor?

I was in this situation today.  With each item the cashier would say some little joke to my 6 year old, who would giggle shyly.  Occasionally I would glance back at the line of four people behind us, watching for things that might be hurled at our heads.  All I saw were polite smiles or spacey faces staring off.  

Reminds me of our trip to Ireland.  I was going through customs in the London airport.  I had a nine month old baby and a four year old with me.  I had a luggage cart piled with three army-sized duffle bags and a suitcase.  I was about the 30th person in a line of about 50 people who had just gotten off the plane and were trying to get through that particular gate.  I had stood there only about two minutes when the customs officer at the front waved me up.  I smiled sheepishly and said, “Oh, I’m okay.”  I glanced nervously around me, hoping no one was cocking back to through a punch.  After all, I hadn’t accepted his unjust offer!

The people were looking at me like I was crazy.  “Go on!” someone said.  “You’ve got children!” someone else reminded me.  I slowly made my way up front.  The guy at the head of the line smiled at me without a shred of hatred as I was let through before him.

It was my first taste of the civilized world.

After five months of that, it was back to life in the Pacific Northwest.  Back to people turning their heads away from someone in need.  Where fairness is based on the mechanized rule of first come first served.  Where the cashiers will hardly ever speak to you, either because it is a culture of “time is money” or because they assume you aren’t cool enough or because the people in line behind you will kill her, or at the very least scream for the manager.

If you’ve never lived on the West Coast, you might think I was exaggerating.  Trust me.  One time in Santa Cruz, California, home of The Enlightened, I was at the bus station at about midnight, coming home from work, and there was a teenage girl sitting on a bench, looking uncomfortable as she actively ignored this drunk old street guy who was standing in front of her, talking to her at high volume.  I watched this for about a minute and then I went over and sat next to her and stared at the guy, repeating, “We’re not interested.  You can leave now,” until he wandered off.  Then I turned to her and rolled my eyes, as if to say, “Weirdos, huh?”  She looked at me and said sternly, “I was fine.  You didn’t have to come over.”

You’re freakin’ welcome.

I think I’ll wait a while longer, here in the South.


Filed under society

15 responses to “Worth the Wait?

  1. There is nothing like Southern Hospitality. We actually believe in that “love they neighbor” thing. 🙂

  2. How dare you try to help you weirdo!

    Amazing, isn’t it? I was walking through a parking lot and saw a lady drop her gloves. So I walked over, she looked up, saw me, and quickly locked the door. I bent down, picked up her gloves and held them out. She looked at me for a second before saying,

    “Leave them. I’ll get them when you go away.”

    I tossed them on her roof and walked away. Did I mention it was an SUV and she’d be hard pressed to reach them? Okay, so maybe there was a reason for her to be cautious.

    I have a habit of holding doors for people. I love when they walk through as if I’m their personal valet. To them I always say,

    “No! Thank you!”

    As far as cashiers go, I truly believe many of them feel the job is beneath them and you are an impedance to their true happiness. I’m not saying customers aren’t Satan’s BallSweat(TM) but you’re in for a long day if you let them change your mood.

    Like I told a 19 year old friend recently,

    “Smile at everyone. It’ll make them wonder what you’re up to.”

  3. Just a Mom- Yes! Southern Hospitality DOES exist! I always thought it was just a phony stereotype.

    B&G- You have the greatest anecdotes, I swear. She SO deserved the gloves on the roof. Or tossed under the car. Sheesh.

  4. stacybuckeye

    I’m a born & bred northerner. When it is my turn at the front of the line, I’ve put in my time and I want service and as quickly as possible because I’ve got other things that need to be done. (This is said tongue-in-cheek. Sort of.)

    My parents best friends lived in Florida when I was growing up and I remember when we were done there how much more time everything took. No one was in a hurry. It drove me insane!

    The most southern place I’ve lived is Arlington, Virginia and that felt more metropolitan than true south. That being said, the older I get the more I think it may be nicer to spend a little more time being friendly and a little less time being annoyed. It’s a choice I have to make daily here in Ohio 🙂

  5. Stacy- Thank you for adding the Northern perspective, since I know nothing of it! All I know is when I was in Long Island, I heard people talking to their kids at the park and I realized, judging by their expressions and gestures, that they were nowhere near as mad as they sounded and that I have probably always misinterpreted the New Yawk accent as indicating anger when it is just the normal tone/cadence/what have you.

    But folks in Ohio don’t have much of an accent, do they?

    (See the extent of my ignorance?!)

  6. It’s too bad the teenage girl didn’t appreciate your help. I’ve noticed that people tend to be turned more and more inward. It is too bad.

  7. stacybuckeye

    No accent in most of Ohio. When we lived in Manhattan for 5 months I was pleasantly surprised at how nice people were. Yes, they are in a hurry (I am too!), but for the most part they were not rude.

  8. Joy

    Minnesota is very friendly too. We don’t hurry around a lot. People here will help anyone and anyone with children. There were times I was in a hurry but walking out of the store after a nice chat with the cashier put a smile on my face that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. You know?? I don’t really understand how you can be in such a hurry that you shut out everyone around you and live in your own little land. We need each other even if it’s only for companionship and a little conversation.

  9. Joy- very well put! I’m going to perhaps sound more ignorant when I ask, what region is Minnesota considered to be part of? I mean, being so far north, it’s not technically the Midwest, is it? When the Southerners talk about Yankees, are they including you? I need to get my regions straight!

  10. Joy

    I’m not really sure Elena. I always thought of us as midwest but your right, we are as far north as you can get in this country so I’m sure I’m a yankee too. I’ll have to check and see.

  11. Joy

    My 4 year old grandson says “we’re the upper midwest, that’s what KARE 11 said!”

  12. Got it! Upper midwest! 🙂

  13. You just need to live in Southern Oregon where nobody honks, nobody shows up on time, movies always start late, and everybody just smiles politely at the woman who spends ten minutes digging through her purse trying to find her checkbook and then asking for a pen and then slowly writing her check only to realize she has to ask the date and the price and then having to find her ID for the cashier, all the while chatting with the young woman behind her about that cute top she’s wearing and the sunny, sunny weather we’re having.

  14. D- I lived in Ashland for about 5 months (1994) and I loved it. I don’t remember people being nicer, but it is such a cool town!!!

  15. I’m not sure they’re nicer, just so in their own little worlds that other things don’t faze them. This creates an aura of niceness though since nobody really yells or gets angry or frustrated.

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