By Lee Scott
My friend Jane and I were at a recent book club luncheon when she asked, “Lee, you are from the north, right?”
I confirmed, and she pulled up a chair and proceeded to tell a story.
Jane had been at the doctor’s office when a woman sat down next to her in the waiting room. There were several other people in the room also. The woman started to talk to Jane and before long Jane found out the woman’s name, Martha, and heard about her ill sister, Edna. Martha and Jane had a wonderful conversation and soon others in the waiting room were chiming in.
“Only in the South!,” Jane said.
I knew what she was talking about immediately.
After all, Jane and I had been brought up with the Northern Code of Ethics. One never invades the personal space of a stranger. One is expected to read a magazine when you are in a doctor’s waiting room. I told Jane about a similar experience. I was sitting quietly in the corner of the doctor’s waiting room when an elderly couple came in and sat down. As they were filling out forms, a young couple with a cute 14-month-old daughter came into the room. The older woman asked, “How old is she?,” and before long we were all smiles and chatting up with the family. As the father chased the daughter around the room (she was greeting all of us), I started to talk to the mother. I learned the family came from Britain and the father, a pilot, had been stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station for two years.
“The people here are so friendly,” the young mother remarked.
After hearing Jane and my stories, the other book club members began to tell their own stories. One woman mentioned that she had been visiting her sister up north when they went into an elevator. My friend said, “Good morning,” to another rider and started to chat. After they got off the elevator her sister said, “What is wrong with you? We don’t talk to people in an elevator.”
Well, I knew this to be true also. There is an elevator code. “What floor?,” and “Thank you.” That’s it.
Yet several of the book club members felt that “small-town hospitality” is found in many northern towns. And there are also neighborhoods in large cities where people are friendly. (Think of the Boston bar, Cheers, where everyone knows your name.) In the end, we all agreed we have begun to embrace the Southern Code. After all, what is wrong with saying “Good morning,” to someone or consoling an elderly woman who is concerned about her sister? It is just good manners.