So I find myself today sitting at a Panera in Nashville, TN. How I got here is a long story which I will perhaps save for a later Slashdot journal. Anyway, having not been to Nashville in many years, I came to this particular food establishment since it has free Wi-fi and I have about 3 or 4 hours to kill. I figured I might as well kill them in style by going to a place with free Internet access.
It has been a long time since I've been to anything resmbling the South. (I do not count my parents' house in Indiana, although close, to really be the South.) Living in California, you tend to forget that there are more places in the country than 1) California 2) Arizona 3) Oregon 4) Washington 5) Colorado 6) Texas 7) Nevada (only included for recreational purposes) and 8) New York City. Most of the time, since you have a good 5-6 hours of driving before you can even get out of the state, it's easy to forget that there are actually parts of the country where most people are white and speak English as their only language.
Panera is a lunch joint that offers an entertaining cross-section of the people from the South. Most people are white and relatively well-dressed; they're on business lunches with others. The food is very American; I consider American food pretty bland at this point, unfortunately. If this were California, every sandwich would have bean sprouts, tofu, and/or avocado and weird mayo. I sort of miss that. Here, I get a roast beef sandwich and it's just that. No strange mayo ("garlic herb", anyone?), no sprouts to pick off, and no avocado option.
The people are also fascinating. Here in Nashville, from my (admittedly non-Southern) viewpoint, there appear to be two types of people: those who relish their Southern heritage, complete with the country twang that always makes me giggle, and those who are trying desperately to prove that they aren't really from the South. Listening to conversations, there is often a mix of the two. Older people seem to be okay with the accent. Younger ones struggle with it to a large degree... you'll hear it slip out occasionally, but they're really having a time trying to pronounce things without the accent. It is definitely fun to watch.
I should probably get back to work so I can at least get somewhat caught up before I leave. I'll try to write more as the next few days go by; it should definitely be one of the most interesting weeks of my life.