Blank Stares

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Southerners. They are the kindest, most understanding, God fearing group of people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Even their children are taught to say ‘yes, mam’, ‘no, mam’ and to be respectful and polite to their elders.

But I’ve found that the Southerners have a language all of their own. So it’s no surprise that those of us who are displaced Yankees often find ourselves unable to communicate with them. The end result is that when we Yankees talk we are often met with blank stares. So maybe us Yankees have a bit of an accent? Personally I would think that after living thirty years in Oregon my Massachusetts accent would be dead and gone. Because in that particular state the natives tend to add R’s where they are not intended and drop R’s where they are. For example the word ‘awe’ has no R so when my mom and I would hear people sing in church that they were in ‘awr’ of God mom and I would start giggling. Of course you already know about ‘pak the caa’ instead of ‘park the car’. But, no, I don’t think you’ll hear a Massachusetts accent from me anymore.

So first I’ll apologize if I’ve told this story before. I’m not only a displaced Yankee but one with a slippery memory. One day I was driving to a dog show in Mississippi. Twenty minutes outside of Jackson I decided to pull into a popular McDonald’s and order a fish sandwich. The lady at the window stood there ready to take my order.

Me: I’d like a fish sandwich and a coffee.

Clerk: A what?

Me: A fish sandwich.

Clerk: I can’t understand you.

Me: Fish. F-I-S-H.

At this point if I had ordered a chicken sandwich I’d have made the sound of a clucking chicken. But what sound does a fish make? Should I open my eyes wide and suck in my cheeks to look like a fish? So we were at a stalemate. I kid you not. She had to get a translator. A woman came to the window, asked me for my order, I told her and she turned to the clerk and translated from Yankee to Southern-fish.

The clerk said, “Oh, you mean a FEE-YA-ISH sandwich!”

Later on at the dog show I told my fellow displaced Yankee friends about my funny episode at McDonalds. My Southern friends smiled good-naturedly and eye rolled because they know we are a bunch of crazy Northerners and really, what can you expect from us, bless our (stupid) hearts.

Yesterday I decided to reward myself for doing nothing and drove to Wendy’s for a Chicken sandwich and a cup of coffee. This time I gave my order at the little grill in back of the establishment and drove up to the window to get my order. The young lady gave me a bag with the sandwich and a Sprite.

Me: I didn’t order a Sprite. I ordered a coffee.

Clerk: Oh, I thought you said Sprite.

Say to yourself slowly: Coffee, Sprite. Do they sound the same? I was thinking to myself, oh here we go again, shades of the Fish sandwich order. The clerk asked me to pull up a bit while she made some fresh coffee.

Me: Okay, but don’t forget me.

I think all she heard was Wa-Wa-Wa, like the Charles Schultz adult Peanut characters. She gave me a blank stare. I smiled, touched the gas pedal and pulled the car forward, trying very hard not to start laughing.

I expect if I stay here thirty years I’ll become not just a displaced Yankee but an adopted Southerner. I’m already finding it easier to say that it’s ‘fixin’ to rain and instead of ‘youse guys’ I’m saying ‘ya’all’. But my favorite saying down here is when it rains really hard, my displaced Yankee friends and I say that it was a real ‘toad choker’.

My only hope is that my Farmie friends will be able to understand me at the Open House or at least forgive me for saying ‘all ya’all’ instead of ‘youse guys’. If you don’t understand me just give me the blank stare. After I finish laughing at myself I’ll translate.