Years ago, I was lucky enough to work with an organization that brought together representatives from various states and regions every few months. As a youth it was a great opportunity for me to meet people I otherwise wouldn't have, learn the ropes of travel and understand the importance of diversity in America. I loved my years with that organization. We would gather together and between meetings spend at least one night discussing the differences between each of our home states. I was most often surprised by how different things seemed to be for me in New York than for many of my friends who lived through-out the Midwest and the Southeast.
Now as an adult I am often reminded of things I learned during my time on that committee. Particularly when political conversations arise I think back to all of the things I learned about just how people live in other states. While on business in North Carolina last week I was walking through the kitchen of a Banquet Hall when suddenly a man in his 30's ran up behind me as I approached a door. " Wait mam I got that for you! " I thanked him as I walked through the door, but I must admit I was stunned. Why would he have done that? Is he hitting on me? I wasn't carrying anything so I was perfectly capable of getting the door for myself. What just happened? Suddenly it hit me. I was in the South, and the South follow a whole different set of rules than we do in the North. I turned to him and said, " I'm sorry I must admit I was shocked that you did that. I'm from New York". He smiled and nodded. Apparently I wasn't the first stunned Northerner he had met.
Let me first say that I can't speak in gross generalizations, but I can speak to what I have experienced. In the 'Northeast', we have a respect to hold open a door ( or we at least should!) for three types of people when it comes to doors.
1. The elderly
2. Mothers with children
3. Anybody who is behind us
It isn't uncommon in the Northeast to see people holding doors behind them for people who are coming. In fact it infuriates me when people do not. I have been so trained to this that when someone runs ahead of me to hold the door open, I must ask, " Why would you do that?". ( Unless of course my arms are full. Than I just assume you're a nice person. ) My experience with people in the South is much different. The men I used to work with would not only open the doors ahead of my arrival to them, but they would motion for me to walk in front of them down hallways, they would pull out my chairs, and they would throw out my garbage. These weren't young men trying to impress me, but instead older gentlemen who were just doing what they knew. I can't speak to the rest of the country as so much of my travel has been limited to the East Coast, but once you hit the invisible border that splits Virginia in two, you are crossing into a land of new rules. The restaurant's change, the weather changes, and apparently so do the rules of etiquette. What may have been an intentional separation between us so many years ago, now seems like a fun quirk of the East Coast. New York has their gentlemen, and North Carolina has their gentlemen. All I really want to know, is which state established Rule # 7, If she can't sleep read her a bedtime story?( And can we demand this becomes a law? )