Sunday, May 6, 2012

Southern Charm

by Leann

Last week I had fun traveling to Bethesda and the Malice Domestic Conference. It was so great to meet up with writer and reader friends face-to-face. My panel assignment was "Southern Mysteries" and during our discussion I reflected on why a woman born in New York writes about the South.

Moving to Texas was pure culture shock for me thirty-seven years ago. I honestly had trouble understanding what people said--and more often what they really meant. You will hardly ever hear a Southerner say "no" to anything. If they don't want to do something, the route they take to tell you so is circuitous, to say the least. In Niagara Falls, where I grew up, we didn't have a simple "no" either. More like "hell, no!"

Why write about the South, then? Because I have been a student of this culture and the learning curve is gigantic. I find it fascinating and most often, pleasant. Truly, I was surprised the first time I went to the grocery store and people nodded and smiled and said hello to this stranger. Nice. There seem to be more secrets in this part of the country, too. What better way to build a mystery than to explore one of them?

My knowledge of the culture came to fruition while at the airport on my return from my trip. The luggage carousal with my suitcase chugged by and I was so very tired. I saw three men in cowboy hats a few feet to my right and I pointed and called, "Could one of y'all grab my suitcase?"

"Yes, ma'am," came their unison reply. The biggest man took over, hefted it off the conveyor. And believe me, he did have to heft. With a smile, he pushed it my way. Then, in pure Texas fashion, he said, "Ma'am, you've been on quite a shopping trip."

Yup. That's Southern charm in action.
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