Speaking Southern has great drawbacks in this country.
When I was 19 years old, Dad, my brother Carl and I drove from Jacksonville, N.C. to New York City on business.
The three of us rode in the front seat of a pickup truck.
I suppose we looked like country bumpkins, but I was up for an adventure.
While Dad was doing business, I went shopping.
He gave me his American Express card and turned me loose in Macy’s Department Store to bring back some souvenirs for Mother and my three sisters.
I had never shopped in Macy’s but I knew of it from the wonderful Thanksgiving Parade, so I was thrilled.
I was 5’9”, with black straight hair down to my waist, wearing hip hugger bell-bottom jeans, a baby doll top just covering my navel, dangling earrings, and stacked red velvet flip-flops- I was fashionable for the 70’s.
My sonar guided me straight to the jewelry counter. Within moments, a middle age woman approached me from the other side. “May I help you?”
“Yes ‘mame, I'd like to look at these necklaces.”
“Wait right here!”
Not knowing what I had done or said, I stayed in place thinking that perhaps my underwear was showing, or that I had something dangling from one nostril and was totally unaware.
The time passed so slowly.
The woman appeared in front of me again, with another middle-aged woman by her side.
“Ok, speak southern.”
“I beg your pardon?”
In my mind, I knew that she was going to make fun of me, so I thought I’d really do it up. “Whaaat would yoouu liiike meeee to saaaayy?”
“You can say anything; we just want to hear you talk.”
My mind began racing.
She wanted to verify that I was Southern, slow talking and stupid.
What an insult.
I couldn’t let her perpetuate that misconception; she needed to be taught a lesson.
“Well, I’m 19 years old and a junior in college, studying Biology and Chemistry, and I plan to do field research when I graduate.
My Daddy, brother and I drove up here from North Carolina on business and while they are in a meeting, I thought I’d do some shopping. So, If you would be so kind, I would like to look at these necklaces.”
The women’s mouths were open, and when consciousness surfaced, the first woman robotically handed me the necklaces.
I said, “I’ll take these five, and I’d like them wrapped please,” handing her the American Express card.
Again, her mouth flew open. I knew what she was thinking- You, have an American Express Card?
I smiled and waited for the wrapped packages.
I could hear Gomer Pile saying Surprise, surprise, surprise, in my head.
When I turned to leave, I said “Thaaank yoouu.”
Both women were still silent.
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