Thursday, January 17, 2008

Been in the Dead Zone?

There aren't many things more maddening than a cell phone dead zone. Especially when it happens in the middle of the largest city in the Carolinas.

You know the drill – you’re driving along talking (in hands-free mode, of course) and realize you’ve been giving vital information to dead air for the last few minutes.

Or, in my case, I was recently banging on the door at a friend’s house, certain she was home but couldn’t hear me, and I flipped open my phone to call her. No service.

I have a major wireless carrier – one that has, in fact, bragged about the extensiveness of its coverage areas.

And I haven’t exactly been in the hinterlands when these cut-offs have happened. My friend is in Plaza-Midwood. I’ve dropped people while talking on Independence Boulevard and on Sharon Road, major urban thoroughfares.

In a metro area of 2 million people, is it too much to ask that our cell phone service eliminate its dead zones at least inside the city limits?

I’m curious to know how many others out there have similar complaints. Where are the dead zones you’ve encountered? Perhaps I can help pass the patterns along to the companies and see if something can be done.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Southern expressions - uglier than armpits?

I’m a fan of those joke-a-day desk calendars. A recent entry on my new 2008 calendar, focusing on humorous insults, contained this supposedly “Southern expression”: “She’s uglier than a lard bucket full of armpits.”

This made me chortle a bit, but rest assured that as a near-native of this area with family roots going way back in the South, I have never heard anyone say this.

I have, however, heard newcomers repeatedly comment on Southern expressions they find either charming or somewhat perplexing, such as the ever-present “Bless your heart” – is it cloaked insult or true empathy?

A personal favorite of mine is “tickled pink.” How could you not smile if someone told you they felt that way? And I've heard the insult that someone is "dumber than a sack of hammers." I also enjoy stories that involve hollerin’ or skeedaddling somewhere.

A friend mentioned he hears about “Adam’s housecat” down here sometimes – as in, “I wouldn’t know that guy from Adam’s housecat.”

What about you? What are some favorite Southern expressions you’ve heard – or need translation for? Post 'em here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Does 'Southern hospitality' exist?

Anybody see today’s editorial page in The Observer?

It read like one of my old North vs. South blog entries. The first writer led off with this: “I was born in the North, grew up in the South, and now live back North for business. When people there ask about the South, it's with a positive curiosity about the great weather and the friendly people. Yet, when I return home for the holidays and open the Observer, I find one derisive comment after another about ‘Northern transplants.’

Then the woman cutting my hair the other day asked me why I'd ever move to ‘Yankee country.’ It's a shame I'll be taking back with me stories of such ‘Southern hospitality.’”

Click here to see the full set of letters.

(Side note: As I told you guys last week, while I am no longer the Observer’s official newcomers columnist, I’d like to keep in touch with you on this blog, so let me know what issues interest you for future entries).

Here’s what’s going on: People are touchy about the recent debate in The Buzz column over whether there is a difference in holiday decorating customs in the North vs. the South - and whether either region has a claim on tackiness. There’s also some sensitivity about a recent Style section article suggesting that holiday novelty sweaters are garish (for what it’s worth, one of The Observer’s top editors was wearing such a sweater in the newsroom the day before that story ran).

I’m not interested in repeating a debate on these issues – or repeating some of the North vs. South comments that the posters on this blog have already written ad nauseum. (As usual, I won’t hesitate to delete out-of-line comments).

But I am interested in discussing the concept of “Southern hospitality.” Does this phenomenon still exist here? My experience talking to newcomers is that many do still find this region to be different from other areas of the country in terms of how welcomed they feel.

One thing to keep in mind is that the people here who are doing the welcoming are often transplants from another region who may have just been here a bit longer. And we’re not just talking Northerners – the wave of newcomers transforming this region is from all over this country, and the world.

So, are we a more welcoming region because we’re a region of newcomers? Or are we no more welcoming than anywhere else?