Monday, June 07, 2004

Watch out for Tractors (Part V)

Sore Thumbs
Various people filed by us, giving us the look reserved specifically for those who appear out of place. Don’t forget that there are few enough people in this town and particularly this church for each member to know every other person by name, along with several important details about the lives of their respective family members. I seriously doubt that we could have looked any more out of place if we had all been standing there in chicken suits.

I suppose the most obvious giveaway I wasn’t a local was the fact that I was most likely the only adult male on the premises who wasn’t wearing a suit and tie. I’d actually planned to do so, but when my wife suggested that she thought I could get away with “dressy-casual,” who was I to argue? I hate driving any length of time in a suit, much less the idea of wearing one on this little Magical Mystery Tour. So there I was in a black, short-sleeve, mock-turtle knit shirt, a nice new pair of khaki Dockers, and black dress shoes.

But maybe it wasn’t me so much as my kids...

My son and daughter, aged 22 and 19 respectively, like most kids of their generation like to espouse their own fashion sense, if you know what I mean. My son is a handsome young man who wears his blonde, collar-length hair in that sort of modified early-Beatles George Harrison “mophead” style. He wasn’t wearing a tie either, but nonetheless was dressed in a nice blue dress shirt, gray khakis and loafers. However he does have both of his ears pierced, which might have contributed to the gawking.

Then again, perhaps it was my my daughter, a striking redhead, who wore a nice, conservative black dress with white appointments. She also wears a stud piercing in her right nostril. Hmmm...maybe that was it.

Anyway, we were still standing there waiting for my wife, getting the eye from everyone who walked by, when a man who appeared to be in his mid-to-late 30s, carrying a Bible walked up. He stopped, looked at the three of us, and stood speechless for what seemed like 10 or 15 awkward seconds before extending his right hand to me and said, “I...don’t think we’ve had a chance to meet yet,” as he shook my hand. “I’m Pastor (So-and-so).” I introduced my self and my kids, adding that we were friends of the groom.

He might just as well have said, “Y’all ain’t from around here…ere ye?” [Now I know that characterization was kind of a low blow, so let me assure you, no one we met even resembled a character from “Deliverance.” However I think you’ll get my point shortly.]

“Are you from Memphis?” He asked. “No,” I said, “we’re from Nashville, but the Franklins are old friends of ours from California. We’ve known them for over 20 years. We moved to Tennessee a few years before them...(yada, yada, yada)”

“Well this must be a HUGE culture shock for you then,” He said with a big grin.

“No, not really,” I said (knowing where he was going with this, but thinking it might be a bit dangerous to try and play along. Besides I really didn't care for the implication. After all, I did spend my early childhood in a small Indiana town that was surrounded by farmland. It’s not exactly like I was born in Downtown L.A.).

Already feeling awkward, I didn’t offer any further explaination. Besides, right about that time my wife came out of the restroom and I just wanted to just go grab a seat and enjoy the wedding. We proceeded up the hallway a few feet to the side door through which we first entered.

"I think we’re gonna go out and come in through the front door," I announced.

"Well go have a good time then," said the Pastor as we went out the door. Then as we turned up the walkway toward the front of the church, he called out, "Watch out for tractors!"

Cue the rimshot.

Now I’m sure he was merely attempting to deliver an innocently self-deprecating parting shot, but the Pastor's comment left this city slicker a bit cold.

Taking a Gander at Myself
Was he making fun of us? Sure. Was he being malicious? Probably not. Should I have felt offended? Absolutely not. Why? Well, how 'bout, "What’s good for the goose is good for the gander." In other words, we (i.e.: myself growing up in California, Hollywood, the Press, and practically anyone else who isn’t "from the South") have been doing the same thing to them for a hundred years. The "Deliverance" jokes, the cracks about in-breeding, the "country hick" jokes. You name it, we’ve all made them and we’ve all laughed.

But now when the tables are kinda stings.

I think you understand the lesson I learned. Perhaps you need to learn it too. It’s definitely something for all of us to think about.

Is that really all this little novel was about? Yep. Could I have made it shorter? Sure, but I think the story was worth telling. Hopefully you did too.

Next: An Opportunity
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