When you grow up in the south, as Gladys had, you were used to people waving at you when you passed in your vehicles. She remembered being very young and asking her daddy, Trooper Bob, if he knew all those people who he exchanged waves. Trooper Bob, thought a minute then responded “Reckon I do. They are all our neighbors. Even those people over yonder with the Yankee license plates, they’s our neighbors.” Gladys leaned from the back seat over the front to see the big yellow Cadillac with Vermont license plate.
“You mean those people over there with the Varmint license plate are our neighbors? You know the capital of Varmint is Montecatipillar and their state bird is the Hermet Crab, no that ain’t right, it’s the Hermet Rush. And my teacher says that the whole state would fit in our county with room to spare.”
Trooper Bob rolled down his window spit his chaw from his jaw and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “That right? Well I Suwanee.”
When you grow up in the south people waving at you from passing cars and talking to you in supermarket lines is common, but where Gladys now lived it was an anomaly. This was just a fact. If someone honked it wasn’t to say Howdy unless you start Howdy with and F and end it with a you. Everyone always seemed to be in a rush to get to the next red light where they would rev their engines and try to beat one another to the next light. It was all very confusing for Gladys who grew up in a friendly state.
Gladys as usual grabbed her reusable grocery bags, her big glass of water, no bottles for her, and headed out to run her usual errands. Even though she lived in this particular town for almost a decade she rarely saw anyone she knew, not even her sister Matilda. Nope she normally went about her day speaking only to the salespeople or giving an occasional nod to a stranger in line at the grocery only to be turned away with a grimace or a growl. She had become accustomed to the surly harried state of most people; but decided not to let it influence her she smiled and went her own way.
Lately, she had noticed a change in some of the people in her town. They were almost friendly. She noticed that they would often wave at her while she drove past them. They would make a point to put a hand out their window and wave with their whole hand and not just a single middle finger. She would happily wave back thinking “now this is how it should be”. She noticed more and more that when she took certain routes and saw certain vehicles they would wave. Gladys smiled and thought maybe she did know these people. Perhaps she had met them at a party or a dinner but quickly dismissed that thought as she remembered she didn’t go to parties.
One morning as Gladys pulled from the drugstore parking lot and onto a busy thoroughfare a woman in a Jeep stopped and let her out into traffic. Gladys, being raised to always be gracious, stuck her hand out the window and waved a big THANK YOU wave. She lumbered down the street in her little Jeep Wrangler and pulled up to a red light where a man in a Jeep Renegade beeped his horn and waved. It was then it dawned on Gladys, the people who waved at her were always Jeep drivers. They would beep and wave and let you in or out of traffic. They moved over so you could fit into parking spaces, instead of straddling the line.
Gladys contemplated this as she drove into the post office. What made Jeep drivers nicer than others? Then it struck her. The only answer she could come up with. Jeep drivers were from the south. So to all my fellow Southern Jeepers who hail from Bangor, Maine or Providence, Rhode Island, Chicago or Montecatipillar, Varmint, you must have a little bit of Southern in you because when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle you let your Southern show. In the words of Trooper Bob, we’s all neighbors, so wave and say Howdy as you go by.