Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Middle of the Bread

I like the middle of the bread. Not just any bread. French bread. I like to tear off the top and dig out the middle. It's soft and filling. When I was a kid, I would hide the end I took off and put it back on the serving platter. After a few minutes, fits of hee-haws had me rolling off my chair and onto the floor when the unsuspecting spaghetti eater would reach for bread only to find a gigantic hole in it. Evidently I haven't changed that much.

I'm sitting here at Panera Bread eating a Greek salad with a large piece of sourdough, French bread. The middle is all gone. It was yummy too. I figure some psychiatrist would have a hey day with it. But they would with my good friend Stephen too. He can't have anything on his plate touching anything else or he won't eat it. He also refuses to let you eat french fries out of the McDonald's bag until we get where we're going to eat. Something about touching his food.

So I figure Stephen can't trust anybody. In contrast, I figure I'd rather to cut to the chase. Why waste all your energy on small talk? Well, down South small talk is a way of life. You have to get through it to get to the real stuff. It's invasive and happens everywhere.

A total stranger in the grocery store will talk to you about why you are buying cranberry juice. Bless your heart sweetie, trying to get regular?
Or at the gas station, another stranger will ask you where you work....because obviously you are high on the hog since you drive that BMW.
My personal favorite is sitting in the pedicure chair and the lady beside you wants to make sure you have a church to attend...since you so clearly don't have one seeing as how you are getting bright red nail polish on your toes.

If you understand how it works down here, responses are automatic and swift. No I'm regular...just need to clear up a UTI. My BMW? Honey, my 99-year-old husband bought that for me just before he kicked the bucket. And red nail polish? Why that's perfectly acceptable in my church. We also worship idols and talk to snakes.

This little ritual is taught from childhood and we can all do it. It's just part of life down here. It helps make new friends and helps you pick up on the new gossip but you can't let them get the better of you. Recognize the bad small talk from the good small talk. It can be a fun game.

Chatting in the grocery line is perfectly normal - just stick to what's on the magazine rack. Discussing outrageous gas prices will endear you to the other sucker who has to pay that much for gas too. And nail salons, stick to pink. And whatever you do, if you are not a card-carrying member of the NRA, don't tell anyone.

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