Monday, September 19, 2011

the streets of atlanta

i am caught unprepared for the streets of atlanta, with its many towering walls of mirrored glass reflecting the other walls of mirrored glass, reflecting the traffic, the blue air, the clouds, the pavement, the ultra friendly people. i have never been this deep in the south before. for some reason i don't think of southern florida or houston, texas as deep south because they hover on the fringe, but atlanta is deep in the interior of the south.

the atlanta, georgia brand of friendliness is politeness all sugary sweet southern style. am i hearing correctly? the beginning of every response to a question is a saccharine yes ma'am or no ma'am, yes sir or no sir. my northern ears equate these ultra polite words with sarcasm, mockery—is boston really that mean?—no, not at all. but southern hospitality does take some getting used to.

speaking of sweet, in atlanta food containing sugar is way more sugary and over-sweetened than at home—is it possible for sweet foods to be even sweeter? sweet tea is the norm (yuck—please find me a spot of good english english breakfast tea) and cookies, muffins and croissants are so over-loaded with sugar i feel my mouth and teeth and throat sticking with a slick film of sugar residue long after i swallow. (i become a bit obsessive and brush my teeth every time i get back to the hotel. i finally pop a toothbrush and toothpaste in my handbag just in case my teeth experience a sugar crisis while i'm out, but i never end up using them. i simply avoid foods which may contain overdoses of the sweet stuff.)

on the streets of atlanta i am at first unsettled by the smiling faces of humanity looking straight into my eyes and not turning away as i pass by on the sidewalk, strangers who then offer me greetings and salutations, unblinking and direct. i don't know what to say. i am dumbstruck. i shake myself out of my mini stupor and finally respond with a hi and a hello—short, simple, strange!—those friendly words of recognition.

i start to really get into this novel business of being nice, being pleasant, and i try to initiate the custom of greeting strangers first. it works. they greet me back.

i am satisfied; i am engaged. i am a real daughter of atlanta. the kind words, sugary sweet southern style, taste good coming out of my mouth.


alexandra said...

Sounds like a great time you guys had!

Leonora said...

A while ago, we made a move from NY to Birmingham, AL. The polite thing was nice and all, but I can still hear myself saying to my kids, "Don't you 'Yes M'am' me!". I thought it made them sound sassy, too.