The Suitcase Lady

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June 3, 2008, 9:44 pm

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Try as they might, the likes of Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Starbucks have not succeeded in obliterating all the regional differences in the United States. Even though every town in America has its predictable landscape of chain stores, observant travelers can still find many things that don’t remind them of home.

Hot dog buns come to mind. Every Midwesterner knows that hot dog buns are split on the side. Imagine my surprise when I bought a package of hot dog buns in a New England grocery and discovered they all looked like little canoes. Time spent in the region revealed the brilliance of the top split bun. It can be stuffed with lobster salad, shrimp salad or clams and the aforementioned will not fall out onto your lap. I would love to see this regional product go national.

The South has a reputation for relishing its regionalism. They love their eccentrics, mint juleps, bourbon and regional authors.

I love the South, but do have a problem when I visit. After placing my order in a Southern restaurant, I had a waitress look at me and say, “Honey, I didn’t understand a word you just said.” Everything down South moves a bit more slowly, including the words.

Regional differences in the West are most apparent in traffic issues. Want to make yourself the instant center of attention? Just venture off the curb at any unsignaled pedestrian crossing out West. I had no idea I could bring all traffic to a screeching halt by merely putting a toe in a crosswalk. Where I’m from, this courtesy is unheard of. Just yesterday I was trying to cross a busy street without traffic lights. Scores of cars just whizzed by me. I dashed for my life when there was a break in the traffic. It’s a predator-prey type relationship here.

I, however, become the menace when I drive out West where the stoplights are on the FAR side of the intersection, not on the corner where you actually stop the car. We midwesterners might be a tad tough on pedestrians, but we don’t put stoplights where you aren’t supposed to stop.

And could someone tell me why California freeways are always referred to with the article ‘the’ as in, “You take the 8 to get to the 5”? I can unequivocally tell you that I do not live just off the 43. I do know my place.

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