Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Southern Hospitality

by James Glaser
April 20, 2007

When a Northerner moves to the South, every Hollywood movie about the Civil War and the Television show, Andy of Mayberry comes to mind. First off, you expect that rich people will be sitting on the front porch drinking lemonade or mint juleps, that poor people will be uneducated, and every policeman will act like Barney Fife. Oh, and I almost forgot—then there is Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazard, to show us what the local politicians will be like.

Well it isn't that way down here, at least not in Northern Florida, around the Tallahassee area. Maybe the Boss Hog imagine of politicians is close, but the rest of the entertainment industry's image of the South is way off base.

People down here are every bit as nice as up North, but like any place there are exceptions. Early one morning Wanda and I went to the Waffle House on Tennessee Street close to Florida State. We waited over a half hour before we figured out that we were not going to get our food. The two of us were the only white people in the place, and even though the waitress apologized to us, there is no chance that I'll ever give that Waffle House a second try

Many places of business I am sure are trying to be hospitable to me, but I really have no idea of what their employees are saying to me. If Wanda is along, she becomes my interpreter. Most people down here speak well, but there is a pretty sizable minority who sound like they just left the hill country.

I can remember how up North it was always a chore to leave somebody's house. My wife would say, "Let's go," and in the winter I would go out and start the car or truck and turn the heater on, come back inside and still have to wait while she and her girl friend would keep talking for another half hour or so. Winter or summer, it was always the same story, and it wasn't just her. People who came to visit us would do the same. The guy is already to go, he has said his goodbyes and has his coat on, and then he and the husband of the woman talking have to kill another half, maybe a whole hour waiting for them to get done with their talking.

After a few years you know that when she says, "Let's go," you can still have another cup of coffee, maybe even another piece of pie. Well let me tell you, that is not a Northern thing. Women down here have long good-bye's too. Guys my age know it is going to be that way, and we always have to laugh when some young guy jumps up and is ready to leave in a minute. He will shake your hand and thank you for stopping over or thank you for having him at your place. Then you watch as he keeps looking at his mate, thinking she will break for the door any minute now. Some even stand by the door thinking that will be like a clue that he is all set. That is a good time to offer him another cup of coffee, or tell him about your new tool out in the shop. He goes out to see the tool and you stand around and bullshit for a while and when you go back in, the little woman looks up and says, "I'll be ready in just a minute." It is probably universal, and every man learns that leaving is a lot harder than getting there.

This weekend we took a tour looking for land to buy. Eighty miles from the ocean or a big city and land is about 25-30 thousand an acre. We did find a couple of nice 1½ acre lots for $35,900 as an asking price. I didn't walk them, but they were both high and dry, and they looked to have nice trees on them. It is hard to think about paying that much, but that price is not out of line down here.

When I think of that kind of land price, I have to remember something I wrote last spring. I was writing about what the weather was like, and I said that I had not had a bad weather day in the last eight months. Living in Minnesota, you are lucky if you can string eight good days together. That is why the land is so expensive down here—supply and demand. Lots of people are moving in down here; they say it is a thousand people a day.

Most of these newcomers are heading to the south or middle of the state. I want to stay in the strip of land up in the north of Florida that has some hills and huge pine forests. You drive around rural Tallahassee, and you might think you are in Northern Minnesota. You see lots of log trucks, saw mills, and you can smell the pines. There are lots of rivers, small towns, farms, and like I said, at least eight months of splendid weather each year. There is a hot summer to contend with, but there is also air conditioning. Air conditioning is the reason that people are flooding in down here.

Years ago most of Florida was void of people. The summers would make living here unbearable. I can't imagine what it was like before the electric fan. But now you can control your environment. It is about as opposite from Minnesota as you can get and still be in the United States.

Some things are different and some things are the same. Florida people are nice and friendly. Like up North, they are willing to help those who need it and leave those alone who want to be by themselves. I guess you can't ask for much more than that.

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