Pull over, I need a glass of sweet tea

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Because we live south of the Mason-Dixon line, us southerners take a lot of heat for a variety of things.

Those who live outside of our world just don't understand some of the things that trademark us as southerners. For example, non-Southerners don't understand that a "Coke" can mean more than just a "Coca-Cola." Included in this category are drinks like Mountain Dews, Sunkists, Pepsis, and the rest of the family of carbonated drinks that keep us cool during hot, humid months.

On that note, Yankees in particular don't go to a restaurant and order sweet tea. Most restaurant owners up north don't even know what sweet tea is. There is one restaurant in Birmingham that has become a traitor to its own kind. Donna, a friend of mine, used to wait tables at this particular five-star restaurant, and on one occasion she told me about one of her customers who got right mad that the restaurant didn't pre-sweeten the tea.

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She said when the lady asked for the sweet tea, Donna explained that their tea is not sweetened ahead of time. She said the lady looked at her like she had just dropped in from Mars, and said, "Well, can't you just whip up a batch of tea, and then pour some sugar in it?"

Donna explained to her once again that the owner didn't pre-sweeten the tea, but several types of sugar were placed on the table for that reason.

After the lady used a couple of words of profanity, she went and got her manager to deal with the customer, who by the way was fresh off the boat from New York City.

Now, I ask you, what kind of restaurant south of the Mason-Dixon doesn't serve sweet tea? This isn't the Hamptons for goodness sake.

Non-southerners also don't appreciate Southern cooking. While living in New York and Wisconsin, I was asked on several occasions, "Now what exactly is a grit?"

My answer most of the time was, "I can tell you it darn sure tastes better than a bowl of oatmeal."

One thing I can say for sure is that us Southerners do just as well as the Yankees if not better, is driving.

The big cities across the U.S. are often criticized for their fast lives and record-speeds on the Interstates. But, here in the south, we can drive with the best of them.

Now, the most infamous Southern speeders are those whose home addresses are marked as Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia. They drive like bats out of hell

oftentimes reminding me of those Yankee drivers in five o'clock traffic on the L.I.E. (Long Island Expressway) from New York to New Jersey.

I was on my way back to Greenville from Mobile one Sunday when I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed cars quickly approaching my back bumper. I looked at my speedometer, which read 80 m.p.h., and moved over into the right-hand lane. As the four cars got closer, I thought to myself, "They've got to be from either Birmingham or Atlanta."

Lo and behold, after the cars passed, I counted two from Birmingham and two from Atlanta.

But if you think traffic is bad in those two cities, try driving in five o'clock traffic in Jacksonville, Fla. Now, Atlanta and Birmingham drivers may drive fast, but at least they pay attention to the road in front of them.

Jacksonville drivers, on the other hand, watch their rearview mirrors just anticipating giving themselves an annurism or a heart attack from screaming at the person behind them for driving too close. The drivers in that town are so bad that there is actually a radio show called "Road Rage" dedicated to them every afternoon. People call and complain about the drivers around them, and you just wouldn't believe what some of them say. The funniest thing is when you notice the person on your right talking on the phone, and they're talking about the car on your left.

But no matter what our southern habits may be, there's one thing for sure

we're southern by the grace of God.