As a lifelong Southerner, I grew up believing that all Yankees -- and I'm not talking about the baseball team -- were rude and uncouth. This despite the fact that both of my parents are technically Northerners, my father hailing from southern Indiana and my mother from New York City via Miami -- which is about as far north as you can get in the South.
It's not that I was "taught," exactly, that Yankees are rude. It was simply the prevailing sentiment -- an article of faith, as it were, absorbed subconsciously on playgrounds and in school cafeterias.
The notion was reinforced in my mind early on, when as a child I travelled with my parents to visit some friends who had just moved to a small town in Pennsylvania. (Why they would want to do that, I couldn't begin to tell you.) I remember walking around their neighborhood, waving and saying "hi" to the people I met, just as I would have done back in my own Southern city. But the people just stared and frowned. Not one waved back.
"Wow," thought my juvenile brain, "Yankees really are rude."
At this point, many of you are probably shaking your heads. "Well, duh," you're thinking -- especially if, like me, you were raised in the mid-century South -- "of course all Yankees are rude. Who doesn't know that?"
Well ... I don't. Not anymore. Not after a recent business trip to New York City, where I encountered some of the nicest people I've ever met. In fact, practically every single person I met was polite and thoughtful. Of course I didn't run into any mob bosses or gang-bangers -- why go to New York to see gang-bangers when I can find plenty right here in Norcross? -- but I believe I experienced a pretty good cross-section of the population, nonetheless.
I should point out that this was only my second trip to New York, not counting just passing through the airport. The first time I was mostly a tourist, and so the people I met were all part of the hospitality industry. They're supposed to be polite.
This time I encountered not only concierges and bellboys but custodians and cabbies, store clerks and strangers on the street, not to mention my professional counterparts. All of them were incredibly nice, not only speaking to me politely -- even if not in perfect English -- but going out of their way to help. If they sensed that I had journeyed from the hinterlands -- how could they not, with my accent? -- they never let on, nor did they treat me like the bumpkin that I probably am. (How much do you tip a cabbie, anyway?)
So as of today, I'm revising my opinion of Yankees. I still can't say that I like New York as well as Atlanta, but at least their baseball team made the playoffs.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.