DeWitt column: Living on Southern Time
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this column was originally published in “Saying Grace Over Edible Underwear,” 2016.
If my wife, Sparky, ever leaves me, it won’t be because of the dazzling good looks that make me the target of other women’s desires, nor will it be the fact that I’m always right about everything. It will be because of our irreconcilable differences.
We live in two totally different time zones.
Maybe it is because her ancestors migrated here from New Jersey, but Sparky’s watch ticks on Yankee Time. Yankees always seem to be in a big hurry to go somewhere. The Mrs. was in such a hurry to give birth to our first son that she went into labor the moment we arrived at the hospital and delivered in only three hours and 26 minutes flat. (I would tell you how quickly she conceived the child, but I don’t want to embarrass the poor girl.)
I, on the other hand, live on Southern Time. I like to do things at a more leisurely pace and enjoy the journey through life. For example, I drive slowly, taking in God’s scenery. I eat slowly, savoring the food and memories prepared by loving Southern cooks, reflecting on the garden, pasture, waters or deep woods where my food came from, while I talk and visit with family - which is the way the Great Creator meant every human being to break bread.
I talk slowly. I like to tell stories. Sometimes I get sidetracked and tell stories within a story, include a back-story or two, and every now and then I’ll throw in a subplot or a flashback story, and by the time I get through my wife begins acting like a lunatic and walks off in disgust.
“All I asked you was what you wanted for supper!” the lunatic screams. Yankees, go figure.
I even walk and shop slowly, which particularly drives my wife crazy in the Piggly Wiggly. Let’s get one thing straight, I tell her in vain: unless you’re famished or late for church, God wants you to take your sweet, Southern time in the Piggly Wiggly. Mosey down each aisle and see what new items are available, chat with a few of your friends and relatives that you haven’t seen in a while, and maybe even read the dietary labels on the packages before you throw them in the buggy. Lots of folks down South have diabetes and high blood pressure, you know.
Here is a transcript of a typical DeWitt family trip to the Piggly Wiggly, taken straight from police and family court records:
5 p.m.: The DeWitt family enters the Piggly Wiggly. Old Dad stops near the front door to empty his pockets into the Shriners’ bucket and talk to the guy in the funny hat collecting money for the crippled and burned children. The Mom instructs Dad to get a loaf of bread and, in typical Yankee speed, zooms ahead with the kids to the produce section like a NASCAR driver trying to qualify for the pole.
5:10 p.m.: Dad walks a little farther into the Piggly Wiggly and stops to talk to Earl, the manager, about very important matters such as global warming, while Mom completes the first lap around the grocery department, changes tires in the pits and heads for the fresh meat case.
“Earl, how have you and Ray been catching fish in all this heat?”
5:20 p.m.: After sharing photos of big bass on their cell phones, Dad gives Earl the slip as Mom rounds the corner at high speed and slings him a mean, dirty look, but runs into another Pig employee just a few feet from the checkout counters and gets involved in a lively debate on wildlife conservation.
“Ray, what’s this I hear about you letting all the fish get away?”
Meanwhile, Mom has stopped for fuel and is making the victory lap around the dairy case before heading for the checkout, bald tires just a’burning on that grocery buggy.
5:25 p.m.: Dad finally meets Mom and company at the checkout counter. An argument ensues because some immature person pitches a fit after Mom refuses to let him have a candy bar. Finally, Mom gives in and lets Dad have the candy bar and the DeWitts check out, then load up in the family wagon.
5:35 p.m.: Amid a scolding round of bad words from Mom that the children shouldn’t be hearing, Dad is forced to march back into the Piggly Wiggly because he blew his one assignment and forgot the loaf of bread. He has strict instructions: hurry and don’t talk to anyone. Dad drops another handful of change into the Shriners’ bucket, tells a joke then laughs at another, then moseys inside like he has all day before running into another old friend and gets into a lively discussion over the best way to skin a catfish.
5:45 p.m.: Mom debates on whether or not she should leave Dad in the Piggly Wiggly overnight to teach him a lesson, or leave him permanently and seek alimony, and ponders what she would tell the children if she did and how they would cope with divorce. They’re tough kids, she tells herself.
6:01 p.m.: Mom texts a very nasty, unladylike message to Dad’s phone, a message that includes detailed threats of bodily harm, 14 curse words and the use of the word rectum three times. Dad is banned forever from the Piggly Wiggly and Mom goes online to seek legal counsel.
6:15 p.m.: Mom says the words “Say goodbye to your father” through gritted teeth, slams the minivan in gear and is in motion when Dad sprints and jumps into the vehicle. A lively discussion ensues and the kids are instructed to close their ears. But Mom almost wrecks the automobile when she finds out that Dad once again forgot the loaf of bread, the only item he went back in for.
So, of course, there are consequences to living in my time zone. But I will keep on making my way slowly through life, living on sweet, Southern Time. And I advise you, too, to slow down and enjoy this life the Great Creator gave us. Let those Yankees pass us in the fast lane.
They will find out what it’s all about, when they get to the finish line before we do.
Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in South Carolina. He is an award-winning humorist, journalist and outdoor writer and the author of two books.