Welcome to the South

The move south is complete. Well – we are physically in Huntsville and tomorrow the movers will be dropping off our things, so I guess it is really only almost complete. Still – we have an apartment and most of the addresses have been changed. Speaking of that, holy shit there are a lot of things that need to be changed, address-wise when one moves. Unfortunately, because we moved from New York to Alabama, we also have to visit the DMV and get new plates. NYS doesn’t play with out of state drivers staying insured in NYS, so within 30 days of moving those plates have to show up, via certified mail, at the headquarters of the NYS DMV in Albany. And of course, the letters that release the title of each car are packed with my forms in my files, with the movers. Cutting it close is sort of my middle name though, so I guess this is par for the course.

All of this is to say that we are getting settled. Today is day 2 of week 2 here in Huntsville and I have had some interesting interactions so far. As you all know, I am a feminist. This means that I have many independent thoughts and I like to take care of myself. I pump the gas in my car and I lug heavy items up the stairs to my apartment. If I cannot do something, I ask for help, but for the things that I can do, I don’t like to have help. Coming from Buffalo, NY means that I was able to move pretty freely through the world without people asking to help me with things. I am a (relatively) young woman, so older people never saw me as needy. And men, in the North, are able to be men without having to help ‘ladies’ with things. Men do offer to help, at times, in the North, but nothing like down here. Holy shit, seriously.

So – yeah – I know there are people reading this thinking “okay Chantale, why can’t you just let people help you without complaining?” Um – do you even know me? This is not something that I have EVER been able to do. This includes people in my own family. I do not ask for help unless it is a dire emergency. That’s just how I do things. It actually has very little to do with my feminism and more to do with my sense of independence. I don’t need help. Thanks.

Since I have been in Huntsville, I have learned a couple of interesting things. I used to think that Southern hospitality was something that was nice. My Nana was from Andalusia, Alabama, but when she moved to Niagara Falls in her late 20s, she quickly dispensed with as many things about the South as she could. She modified her speech so that she wouldn’t sound Southern. She learned how to move through the world without expecting everyone to take care of her. She learned slang of the North and stopped taking offense when people made jokes that were dry and seemed rude. I learned from her, that the South was a specific way, but the way that she saw it was not exactly the way I see it now. Southern hospitality comes with a bit of an icy exteriour. People are cordial, but not genuinely nice.

My experiences thus far have only been with customer service facing people, so I don’t have a huge repertoire to draw on, but here are a few things that have happened in the past week that lead me to believe “southern hospitality” is a ruse.

On my first day out of the apartment, I went to Panera for lunch. The woman who waited on me was nice enough, but because she couldn’t understand me when I asked for a “blueberry muffin” and had to ask me 3 times to repeat myself, she got frazzled rather quickly and the rest of the interaction was sour. Later that day, I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to look for a few things and when I asked the Customer Service desk woman for help, she gave me the worst look I have ever received from a customer service person. I am sure that both of these interactions were related to the fact that I have a very distinctively Western New York accent and they both probably saw me as a tourist, but still, what the hell happened to customer service?

On an outing to Publix, for groceries, with Chaz, as we were leaving the store one of the men that works there asked to roll my cart out to the car. I politely said no thank you and started rolling the cart myself. He asked me again and I again declined. On the third ask, I looked at Chaz and looked back at him and said: “no, really, thank you but I’m good”. He then told me to “have a blessed evening”. Um – okay. I later found out that it is Publix policy to offer to roll carts out to cars for customers. It isn’t gendered as I did see a woman presenting employee rolling a cart for a male presenting customer. However, at the time that it happened, it felt very much like a situation of “you are in need because you have a vagina”. Maybe that is over the top, but I am dealing with these interactions on a daily basis as I try to acclimate to my new surroundings.

The kicker, so far (I’m sure there will be others that I will let you all know about shortly) was when Chaz and I decided to go to Target to get a few things. While standing at an end cap looking at lights, we were trying to figure out how a light worked, and a man (just a customer, not a worker) came by and looked at Chaz and said: “whatever she wants, she gets”. Um – seriously – what the fuck? I’m not even going to WTF that one. I am tired and it hasn’t even been 2 weeks yet. What will next week hold?

Final thoughts: I have been at the same coffeehouse, in downtown Huntsville, 4 times since I came here. It is the only place I have found, so far, where I feel comfortable. I have googled “fun things to do in Huntsville” and “Buffalo people in Huntsville” and “Sabres fans in Huntsville” and “Bills fans in Huntsville” (that one is crazy because you know how much I do not like football) and none of these searches come back with any real information. Fun things to do in Huntsville pretty much revolve around Space Camp and local art. These are not things I particularly enjoy. I’m sure I will find something. At least I hope I will. Otherwise, these people at Honest Coffee Roasters are going to be seeing me several times per week. Huntsville feels like the place that you grow up and then flee from, not somewhere that you run to, but as I said earlier, it has only been 1.5 weeks, so we shall see what is to come. At least I found somewhere to get a good pour over with reliable wifi. So – you will be hearing from me more often, which, if nothing else, is a great thing for you, my dear readers.



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