Years ago I went to the Co-op in Cottage Grove, Tennessee, to fill up. A grain truck was already at the pump so I pulled up behind it and waited. The driver was sitting in the cab. I kept waiting. He kept sitting. I was getting aggravated.
What I did not do was honk, or gesticulate my displeasure, or give him the finger from my open window. Such rudeness would have been vastly worse than his rudeness, so I did what I believe the vast majority of Southerners would have done. Nothing. I was not in a rage, rather just put out at this rude man before me who just sat there rather than either filling up his tank or pulling ahead so I could fill mine.
Eventually, he finally pulled forward. I did the same and stood by my truck while it filled. I then noticed that the man had parked his rig and was walking across the yard straight at me. When he arrived he apologised for making me wait. His truck wouldn’t start.
He did so because he, as a Southerner, did not want to be thought of as being rude.
I did what I believe the vast majority of Southerners would have done. I told him as good-naturedly as you please, ‘Oh! No problem!’ And I meant it. It was now no problem. Any angst that I felt had vanished because he was in fact not being rude and showed me respect by acknowledging the inconvenience that he had caused.
I have seen enough of the world to greatly value what I believe to be one of our people’s greatest qualities, namely, the regard that we have for and the kindness that we show to each other.
This piece was previously published on Look Away on March 24, 2021.
Mark Atkins has six wee bairns who are all seventh-generation Henry County, Tennessee, and all from the same doe. It is the people of Henry County that he most wants to reach but writes to Southerners generally. He is without credentials but rather dares to speak by the same authority as the little boy who cried 'The king has no clothes!' His core belief and starting point is that like everything, we humans have a nature, it is not so hard to understand, and to pretend that it is other than it is, is to jump off a cliff. Which is what we Americans have in fact done.