Sunday, January 15, 2017

The South is not for Me

I was in small town Alabama for a week. I've never felt so far out of my element, stranded on a martian planet as I did in this small town.

There's this weird sense of pride everyone has here. Like, "We've managed to remain a small town and function, so screw you." But it's this weird, somewhat functioning, small scale social experiment. The one thing that everyone I talked to really wanted to drive home was, "we don't care about the people that don't live here."

Time and time again they complained about neighboring towns. They made fun of the north constantly. They loved calling my lead and I Yankees and sort of poking fun at the software guys. Most of these people had never left their small town except to go to some lake further in the middle of no where. To them, their town was the entire planet. They didn't care about Syria, globalization, the droughts in California, drug cartels in Mexico.

Their only cares were, how was Alabama doing in the championship and if that new Dollar General was going to put their home town grocery store out of business.

I'm jealous because they have this local grocery store that makes good enough food where half the town eats dinner there. Everyone knows each others name.

But then like a Dollar General and WalMart opened next to it. And the few people that have commented have been like, "It really sucks that Dollar General and WalMart are going to put our store out of business cause the Hampton family are great people and their grocery store has been around forever, but it's cheaper. So I go to WalMart."

Food is the other thing. My buddy and I got into town Monday night and drove around looking for just some local bar and grill.

We stopped at 3 places before we found a place that was clean enough for us to trust chicken wings from. We had 2 beers, watched the Alabama game with a bunch of locals, and went back to the hotel by 8.

The next day, when we were on site with our client, we asked them about where the best places to get a drink and some food were, scouting out for dinner, and their answers were Applebees, TGI Fridays, and Chilis. When we asked for something more local, they again said the TGI Fridays was the cleanest place in town, but then directed us to a BBQ and Sushi place.

We ended up eating lunch with them over two days which involved just massive amounts of burgers and fried food, every one of them being overweight, breathing hard, and complaining about how much work they have to do.

I can see why they are overweight though. After just being there for 4 days, I feel so bloated on salty food and meals built around meat that all I want is a salad. Side note, I ordered a salad at one point and got some browning iceburg lettuce with a couple tomatoes and ranch dressing.

And everyone we talked to drives an hour or more to work. They have what sound like massive complexes they live in, but don't have basic utilities I've come to under-appreciate like true plumbing and internet. And I don't know if they talk about this when the "Yanks" aren't there, but the often talked about how, "that's just the way I live my life, and if other people don't like it, tough shit."

It was just so weird to see how little they cared for anything outside of their little town. Several of the people we talked to had never left their town, even a couple hours away to Panama City or Huntsville or Montgomery.

And my hotel was mostly nice, but there were things about it that just felt terrible. Like the stairs were all warped in the middle of they sort of formed a "U" shape. There was an abandoned grocery store with roof tiles falling of it next door.

My lead was going to have to leave a day early because he had to rent a car and drive in from another airport. I looked at the weather, saw an ice storm was coming to St. Louis, and and immediately tried to find a way out quicker. I flipped through the cable channels, eventually only finding Alien vs Predator 2 as entertainment, and just started feeling really depressed with the idea of being in this town alone for a night and possible getting stuck in the airport for the weekend.

The town's airport had no flights on Thursdays, so after some planning, I changed my flight to go out of Panama City, had my lead drop me off at the airport, and spent the next 6 hours barely making all of my connections.

If this is what the apple pie, Americana life is like, I'm not meant for it.