Dixie Carter gave an interview once where she expressed the opinion that being a Southern woman of a certain age was a joy, because you had full license to speak your mind. And when she said that, I remember thinking, "Why wait?" I decided that "a certain age" really ought to translate into "whatever age I am now."
Since then, I've found it hard to keep my Southern mouth shut.
A recent example of when I had to muzzle myself: guy waiting for his car at the valet stand, carrying on a very loud conversation with . . . no one. Because he was plugged into his Bluetooth. He was yelling at someone named Jessica. And I came this close to whipping out my own phone, holding it to my ear and carrying on one-half of an imaginary conversation as follows:
What's up? Waiting for the valet and listening to this guy yell at some poor soul named Jessica who is probably holding the phone out LIKE THIS. Yeah, he's on his Bluetooth. Umm, thinning hair, medium height and build, striped oxford, khakis?
At this point, he would turn around and look at me, slackjawed, and I'd either wave at him or give him the thumbs up, and then resume my "conversation" while abruptly changing the topic to something 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
A recent example of when I didn't muzzle myself: a local pub-style restaurant that my work friends and I frequent always has the soup of the day listed on the chalkboard by the front door. Yesterday's selection looked interesting, so I searched the menu for "soup of the day" and found - nothing. No soup-and-sandwich or soup-and-salad option, not a side dish or substitution item, NO MENTION OF SOUP OF ANY KIND, IN ANY CONTEXT.
So I called over the owner (who, over eighteen or so years, has come to know us pretty well, and knows what to expect).
"Hey, the soup of the day looks good."
"Are you aware that you don't actually SELL soup?"
"Well, not in terms of 'listing it on the menu and assigning it a price point.' I mean, you may be selling incidental quantities based on anecdotal evidence that soup exists, but your menu certainly isn't doing you any favors in the soup-marketing department."
I was very upbeat and direct in my delivery. And I could tell that he appreciated my unique blend of brutal honesty and sunniness. As well he should! I was doing him a SERVICE. Just like when he printed new menus after changing locations several years back, and I asked him about the sauce on the fish sandwich:
"Tarter than what? Regular tartar sauce?"
"The fish sandwich comes with TARTER sauce. With an E. So is it something different than tartar sauce, in that it is more tart? Tart-ER?"
"No. [Expletive.] YOU'RE [expletive] KIDDING ME. I HAD THREE DIFFERENT PEOPLE PROOFREAD THAT MENU."
"Were they literate people?"
Like I say, he knows what to expect from me.
Last night, I had to fill out first-day-of-school forms for the Little Kid. I hate this exercise, because of the sheer number of forms that require me to fill in my child's name, his student ID number, the school and the date, and then check a box confirming that, no, my child is not a migrant farmworker, or an Inuit or Aleut, or the child of a serviceperson, or sleeping on a non-relative's couch. I understand why this information is important, but my objection is to the fact that the check-boxes come one to a page. THIS form is just for checking yes or no to the farmworker question, and if you check no, there is a bold-type legend telling you to STOP THERE AND DON'T FILL OUT THE REST OF THE FORM. Meaning that seven-eighths of a piece of paper just went to waste. The Inuit Islander question appears on an entirely different form (another seven-eighths lost), and so on. PEOPLE, CAN WE NOT CREATE A MASTER FORM WITH ONE GLOBAL QUESTION AT THE TOP? "My child [IS/IS NOT] a migrant farm-working Inuit or Aleut sleeping on a non-relative's couch while one or both of his/her parents is deployed." If you check "IS NOT," then you're done. Boom.
That sound is the sound of grateful trees weeping tree-tears (would that be sap?) at my suggestion.
The form that bugs me the most is the one requesting permission to list our address and phone information in the district directory. THERE IS NO DISTRICT DIRECTORY - and why would there be? We live in a largish city, with a sprawling ISD comprised of a bazillion campuses. Yet, year after year, the question is asked. And, year after year, I check "no" on principle, and write some version of the following in the margin:
PLEASE STOP ASKING ME IF I WANT TO BE INCLUDED IN THE 100% THEORETICAL DISTRICT-WIDE DIRECTORY. NOT UNLIKE THE LIMIT IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP QUESTION ASKED IN THE STATE MATHLETE FINALS IN "MEAN GIRLS," THE DIRECTORY DOES NOT EXIST. TEN YEARS, YOU HAVE BEEN ASKING THIS QUESTION. AT NO POINT IN THOSE TEN YEARS HAS THERE EVEN BEEN THE SUGGESTION OF THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ACTUAL DIRECTORY BEING PUBLISHED. ENOUGH, ALREADY.
I tell myself that surely someone in the front office, or in central administration, will read my comment , actually GET IT, and mutter, "HA! Right?" They might snort a little. AND I WILL HAVE MADE THEIR DAY. Yeah, I know that, more likely than not, no one ever reads my comment, and if they do, they probably don't get it. But I don't care. It makes me feel better to vent. And it's sort of become a tradition.
Tradition is important to Southerners "of a certain age."