I live in Southern Alabama. Born and raised, actually. While on a recent camping trip to Navarre Beach, FL my daughter and I donned our bathing suits and towels and departed for the beach at the same time as the older couple camping in the site across from us. We smiled at each other and all made our way to the boardwalk leading to the beach together. We engaged in small talk along the way and the gentleman asked:
“Where are you folks from?” (This was my first clue that he is a northerner. You folks? Really? The correct term would be ya’ll.)
“Alabama,” I responded simply.
He crinkled his nose as he said, ” Alabama? Really? Huh, I couldn’t tell.”
Um, ok. There was a slightly awkward pause as I had no idea how to respond to that. Do I take it as a compliment? Does he expect me to thank him? Or should I ask what it was that threw him off? Was it that I am in possession of all my teeth, or perhaps it was the fact that I was wearing shoes? I know that he most likely meant that I don’t possess the regulatory thick southern accent, but still. This is the typical response we Alabamians receive from Non-Alabamians. (When I stalked his RV later, I found out that he is from Canada. Funny, I couldn’t tell. No Eh, eh? How disappointing.)
There is an army base near my hometown so we get a lot of transplants. One such transplant (who’s husband is stationed at the army base) landed a temp position at the company that I work for. One day soon after she started, in the course of everyday chit chat, she commented on how nervous she was when she found out that her family was being stationed in Alabama, and how surprised she was to find out that we are just like everyone else. Yes, she said she didn’t expect us to be like everyone else in the country. I can only assume that she pictured all us women barefoot and pregnant while the men drank moonshine and spit tobacco juice all day.
Seriously, it’s so silly. So I put together a list of a few things I think that Non-Alabamians should know about Alabama:
- We are not all card carrying members of the NRA. In fact, I have never fired a gun, or ever even held one for that matter. Yes, many Alabamians are pro-gun and pro protecting our second amendment rights, but we don’t all carry a shotgun in the back of our pickup trucks (or all drive pickup trucks) ready to do battle with a fellow redneck, or in case we need to shoot a deer that may be seen grazing nearby.
- We are educated. In fact, Alabama boasts two colleges ranked within the top 100 colleges in the country, the University of Alabama and A-b-rn University. Sorry, but if I say (or type) it out loud, my husband’s spidey senses will kick in and he’ll just know. If you live in Alabama or have ever visited here, you understand.
- We are not poor. Well, of course there are poor people in Alabama, but we aren’t all poor. Yes, our average salary is lower than most of the rest of the country, but our cost of living is much lower too. A house that might cost $300,000 in California would only costs around $100,000 here. So we actually live quite comfortably on our lower salaries.
- Alabamians love football. No not the NFL, we could care less about the Super Bowl. It’s college football that’s king here. It is required of all new residents (and frequent visitors) that they pick a side, Alabama or A-b-rn (sorry, but we really do take it very seriously). And don’t claim to be a Gators or Bulldogs fan, that is such a copout. In fact, the UA vs. AU game is such a big deal here that last year they let us all go home from work at lunchtime so we could watch the big game (yes, that happened).
- Alabama is not only home to some of the countries’ most beautiful beaches, they are also some of the countries’ cleanest beaches. It’s true, I saw it on The Weather Channel, so it must be true. Seriously, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are truly beautiful with their clean white sand and clear blue water. Perfect for that family beach vacation!
- We don’t talk like hillbillies. Well most of us don’t anyway, there are a few with an accent so thick I can’t even understand them, but for the most part we are articulate. Hence why Mr. Canada couldn’t tell I was from Alabama. Yes many of us say ain’t and ya’ll, but it’s ok because they’re words now. Look them up in the dictionary and see for yourself.
- Alabamians can sing. Well, we do boast two American Idol winners, that’s got to count for something.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I am proud of where I come from. I step out of my front door each day and breathe in the fresh air, admire the scenery of rolling hills (and yes, farmland) on my way to work, enjoy the short ride to the beach or the lake whenever I get the whim, and treasure the long-lasting friendships I have made here. Ever heard that people are so much friendlier in the South? Well, they really are.
There is an email forward that goes around with a story about a man who traveled the country and in each state he went to, he would see a church with a payphone that allowed people to dial Heaven. At each church, the cost to use the payphone would differ, some cost $10,000, some as much as $100,000, but there was always a cost. So imagine his surprise when he was passing through Alabama and came to a church with such a payphone, only this time there was no charge to dial Heaven. Curious, the man asked the pastor of the church why there was no charge, and the pastor responded “Didn’t you know? It’s a local call from here.”
If you’ve ever lived in Alabama, you understand.