A New Englander reflects on a year in the south


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Before I begin, I must admit that I am not your average New Englander. Although I hail from a suburb of Boston and according to legend was born in a blizzard somewhere in Connecticut, I have always hated the cold. I was routinely mystified by my classmates in high school who wore shorts and flip flops throughout the annual ice age in New England known as February. In this sense, one of U.Va.’s most influential selling points to me was the fact that on the day in March when I toured, the sun was actually shining, there was a baseball game occurring unobstructed by snow conditions, and the temperature was somehow above freezing. In short, I am one of the least “hearty” New Englanders you will meet. 

That all being said, I could never have anticipated the culture shock that awaited my arrival to Charlottesville. 

To begin with, I barely survived my first week. After somehow managing to not melt in the malicious humidity of move in day, I panted through the next few days in the comfort of my air conditioned dorm room (old dorms would have made me transfer). Unfortunately I could not reverse-hibernate for much longer, and when the activities fair arrived, I was itching for some clubs. Little did I know this itch would almost kill me.

When I arrived at the Lawn and its corn maze of extra-curriculars, I was already sweating profusely just from breathing. It felt like the sun was approaching closer to the earth with each passing minute and I wondered to myself where they were keeping everyone had already passed out. I continued to traipse through 96 degrees and a humidity that made my fingernails perspire, approaching each table completely out of breath. By some miracle I made it back to the safety of my climatized room and swore to myself that I would never, ever spend a summer south of the Mason-Dixon line. 

And now I would like to say a few words about Southern cuisine. To all of you Southerners, having chicken and waffles on any old Wednesday is NOT how the rest of the world does it. I usually can tolerate a lot of different kinds of foods (don’t get me wrong, I am now a fervent advocate of putting fried chicken on the same plate as a waffle), but when it comes to breakfast, I am not totally convinced that the South is thinking straight. First of all, I don’t know what grits even are, let alone how anything going by that name could be edible. Is it like a savory oatmeal? Who thought that would be good? And what about biscuits and gravy? There is legitimately no Northern equivalent to this failed culinary experiment. For starters, a relationship with a white gravy is most definitely one of the most suspect attributes that a biscuit can maintain. The rest of the world knows all gravy to be brown, so I don’t even want to guess what is in that. And that’s supposed to be for breakfast? Did the South collectively run out of cinnamon rolls? Someone please explain.  

Finally I must prepare any Southerners reading this for what life looks like in the great beyond past Maryland. For one, people do not drive nearly as nicely or slowly. This is something that I have come to appreciate, as driving in Boston is enough to satisfy an adrenaline junkie. But a word of warning, where I come from, people do not use their blinkers or their manners. Honestly speaking, my driver’s ed class should have been called, “How To Not Die While Driving.” I guess I say this just as a word of caution, and to appreciate what you have while you have it. 

This takes me to my final discovery, specifically into the world of manners. When someone held the door for me and even offered to help me to carry my fridge to my dorm room on move in day, I genuinely thought that I would have to end up paying for such a service. I admit have come to sincerely appreciate this southern attribute of politeness and consideration, especially as it is a foreign concept in the North. New England is where you can find the best silent Uber ride for your money’s worth, and you will undoubtedly have a more amicable experience asking directions from a paper map than a local. 

So on this note, thank you to the South, for your disorienting kindness and slow pace of driving, but please, for the rest of us, take a hard look at yourself and think about why you eat biscuits and gravy. For breakfast. Please. 

Walter Sharon is a Humor Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at humor@cavalierdaily.com

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