Before we grab our coffee’s and visit with my guest today, I want to mention that my young adult novel, Friends Forever, is free for the next three days. This is what one reviewer had to say about the story, “Ms. Miller captures the trails and tribulations of 13 year-olds very easily. She talks their lingo and keeps the book interesting with enough twists and surprises to keep younger readers turning the pages to the very end.”
Now, help me welcome Elaine Walsh as today’s Wednesday’s Guest, as she shares some amusing thoughts on the difference between etiquette in the North and in the South. Enjoy….
My daughter shudders when we pass a certain McDonald’s in town. “I can never go back in there,” she laments, remembering the trauma she suffered there when she was ten after a visit with her New Yorker aunt.
“New Yorkers are so misunderstood,” I’ve told her many times, not wanting her to overlook the content of their character since she can’t get past the directness of their approach.
I’ve been a stealth New Yorker, living undercover in Florida’s Tampa Bay area for over half my life. Because I grew up north of the five boroughs, I didn’t pick of the Bronx accent that gives away the origin of the upbringing of my father and his siblings whenever they open their mouths. A co-worker once told me, surprised to learn about my northern background, “You don’t seem like you’re from New York.”
It was his nice way of saying, “You’re not loud and obnoxious.” Sorry my fellow New Yorkers but that is how many in the south see us.
Southerners say things that at first glance seem more socially acceptable. Think about it. Doesn’t “hush” sound nicer than “shut up” or even better than the cleaned up version, “be quiet”. But is it effective? Can you imagine saying “hush” in New York? How long could you survive in New York on southern charm? Maybe a nanosecond? Just turn around in your seat in Yankee Stadium and say that to the loud-mouth from Boston who just yelled “you can’t hit what you can’t see Jeter.”. Hush? Really? The people around you would think you were throwing up a hair ball. Hush. Hush. Hush. They might even level a Heimlich maneuver on you to help you extricate it.
I’m an ambassador of sorts for my southern and mid-western raised friends. I have to translate at times. I tell them, don’t confuse a New Yorker’s directness with manners. While the southerner might have developed the ancient Irish trait of telling someone to go to the devil in such a way that they look forward to the trip, the New Yorker isn’t going to mince words. You know where you stand with them. There’s no confusing the point of what they’re trying to say.
So back to the calamity that unfolded at McDonald’s. My Bronx-born aunt relocated south a few years ago and now lives near me. She took my daughter out for a Happy Meal one afternoon. My daughter waited in the dining room while her aunt ordered their food. She heard a commotion coming from the front of the restaurant. A few minutes later her aunt showed up and plunked down in the seat across from her. Moments later a man walked up to her aunt and told her, “They don’t make enough money to put up with people like you.”
Her aunt turned in her seat, mouth gaping open, and flung her hands and arms open as if she was just shot in chest. “What,” she bellowed back at him, dropping her ‘r’ in typical New York fashion, “I’m the custa-mah.”
And the customer is always right.
My daughter wanted to crawl under the table. Instead, she vowed never to show her face in that McDonald’s again.
Fast forward to this summer where I’m with my daughter on a tour boat taking us around the New York City skyline. The guide narrating the tour had my aunt’s familiar accent. As he educated us on the history of New York and pointed out various sites, tourists on the boat would rush the rails to snap their pictures. Many lingered too long. Our guide minced no words telling them to take their picture and sit down so others could partake in the photo op. I didn’t know how my daughter would react to his direct approach. After one sharp scolding, I glanced at her and she said “What? He’s being nice. He wants everyone to have the same chance to get pictures.”
And I thought, ahhh, she finally understands.
Elaine’s novel, Restoration, chronicles Tess Olsen’s challenge to restore her life, relationships, and dreams back to the promise they held before her mother abandoned the family to marry a convict, Randall Wright.
Elaine grew up in upstate New York against the backdrop of the flowering women’s rights movement with different ideas from her mother as to what life as a woman should be. In college, she majored in psychology with the intent of being a “death & dying” counselor. Instead, she moved to Florida and became a successful business executive by day and women’s fiction writer by night. She says, “Being a daughter, mother, friend, and soul mate is the most powerful influence in my life and my stories.”
Visit Elaine at Goodreads, or her website. And you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.