From The Laugh Cafe Collection, 2017
Be Careful. Be Very, Very Careful.
People who live in non-rhotic northeastern states not only drop their ‘r’s,’ but they also aren’t known for talking to strangers, being patient — or having a sense of humor, for that matter.
I know this because it came to my attention quite by accident.
I recently lived in the northeast for a few years. The cost of living is 43% less in Rhode Island than it is in Boston, so Providence, Rhode Island became an interim home.
On one of my first grocery runs in Providence, there I was, minding my own business and patiently waiting in the checkout lane at our local Stop-N-Shop grocery store. A bit of useful trivia for transplants relocating there: There are no Krogers or Publix stores there. (You’re welcome.)
Anyway, it was a busy day, and there was quite long lines in the check out area. One by one, the busy shoppers in my chosen lane checked out until finally there was only one person ahead of me.
About this time, one of the managers came walking by and observed that the queue was blocking the main walkway at the front of the store and that waiting customers were snaking their way down the shopping aisles. She stepped over to an adjacent register and flipped on her light to rectify the situation, announcing that a new checkout lane was opening. Seeing me watching her, she motioned for me to move over to that register.
But — being the nice person that I am — I thought the friendly ‘southern thing’ to do would be to back up and let the person in front of me be the one to go over to the new line. After all, this person was technically next.
As I began reversing my cart (another piece of useful trivia here: locals in the NE call shopping carts ‘carriages’ or ‘buggies’). I politely suggested that the woman in front of me move to the new line, stating that I was in no rush.
Rather than uttering the ‘thank you’ I was expecting, this woman snorted and harrumphed as she stomped by — nearly side-swiping me as she careened her cart around on two wheels. Woo hoo! Miss High-And-Mighty was about to claim her pole position.
She gave me a glaring icy stare as she sped by, practically leaving skid marks on the floor tiles.
Well, Miss Southern-Manners here was gobsmacked. I felt behind me for my fainting couch as I was getting ‘the vapors’ from the shock of her rudeness.
Seriously? Had I just been all-nice-and-neighborly-like, and now this ingrate was acting like I had done something to her?!
Well, that did it!
That’s when my humor imp [Erma] pulled one of her, ‘Why not say it? Let’s see what happens …’ mental hijackings.
So as Ms. Mario Andretti began unloading her ‘carriage’ (still very much within earshot), I couldn’t resist. I held my hands out — palms up — imitating a demonstrative Italian mob boss. Using my best Boston accent, I snarked: “Whatsamatteru?! Would it breakauface to smile? Don’t youz know how to say tank you?”
A nanosecond later, my common sense kicked in and tried to pull me up short by saying, “Did ‘youz’ just say that out loud?”
Hearing that, my gift of fear flipped on the red/blue strobe lights. The sound of the siren made me realize the ramifications of making such a remark— especially considering where I was. I put my head down, white-knuckled the cart handles, stared straight ahead, acting as if I’d said nothing.
Luckily, I didn’t get punched in the face, or followed to my car for a beat down by Miss Congeniality after I left the checkout.
So what did we learn, dear?
I learned that — similar to remembering to set the emergency brake when parking a car on a hill in San Francisco — I was going to need to remember to put the brakes on my humor. I was also going to need to keep impulsive commentary in draft mode if I planned to continue residing in a town known to have once been run by the mob.
Yet again — Joe Q Public reminds us that sometimes you gotta learn to laugh at life — even if you’re the only one appreciating the joke.
As it turns out, I ended up living in Providence for five years. Eventually, I found a way to fit in, but it took a little coaching:
For years I moonlighted as a serious healthcare administrator. These days I am flying my humor flag and enjoying life. I write to dispel the rumor that I rode off quietly into the sunset. Smile and enjoy the ride. Life is good.