Friday, April 13, 2012

Southern Hospitality

Y'all better sit your lil' selves down 'cause I'm fixin' to go all crazy on a bitch. (Sincerest of apologies for the proliferation of southern dialect, but I have just returned from Jonesboro, Georgia--prominent setting of "Gone With the Wind," and, as it so happens, also the setting of my most recent *ahem* skirmish.)

Like a true southern gentleman, my friend Jeremy bequeathed me with tickets to the Gone With The Wind Jonesboro Tour for my birthday. An all day affair, the package included a driving tour of the city's Civil War homes, admission to the museum, and a walking tour through an antebellum plantation. My kinda day.

I'd been planning this tour for more than a week, and it was GWTW themed. You do the math. I was pumped.
Adding to the excitement of the day was my company--my friend Thomas (a fellow actor, student and film enthusiast) would be joining me for the tour. Thomas is tall, beautiful, and black. This latter fact may or may not become important later.

Thomas and I arrive on time and have a lovely tour of the city, stopping over in the Confederate Cemetery and the old jailhouse. We peruse the graves on unknown soldiers. We laugh at the jail register which includes arrests for "possession of illegal chickens" and "fornication." We are having a lovely time.

The museum proves equally lovely. The lady who took our tickets--a sweet, sweet lass named Phyllis--had no idea what to do with me. I had taken it in my mind to be her favorite patron of the day, and therefore chatted her up an inappropriate amount and prodded her to badmouth "Jason," a patron who was supposed to tour that date but didn't show up. Jason--the bastard--didn't call to cancel either. Phyllis, apparently, forgave Jason the indiscretion. I was not so kind. In the end, Phyllis and I had to agree to disagree. That's just the kind of concession one must make for their new best friend.

The museum itself was packed with images from the film and many film-inspired dolls, which Thomas, despite my insistence, refused to steal for me. That Thomas, he's a stand-up guy.

Next stop was the walking tour of the antebellum plantation.

Thomas and I arrived in front of a large, white columned building from the mid 1800s, which was flanked by a schoolhouse, barn, kitchen, blacksmith's shop and outhouse from the same time period. There was also an authentic Creek village from 500 years ago, but we'll get back to that in a minute.

A few minutes early for the tour, Thomas and I ascended the stairs of the main plantation house to speak to a heavyset white woman who appeared to be in her 50s. We assumed her to be the woman in charge because, quite frankly, she was the only person visible on site, aside from two Jonesboro police officers. She had on a name tag: Bertha.

"Can I help you?," she said. Her southern drawl was thick as molasses without any of the sweet. Her arms were crossed. She moved to stand in front of the door.

"Um, yes," I replied brightly, matching her southern tones with a sugary version of my own. "I have tickets for the 3 o'clock tour."

I showed her my LivingSocial certificate. She frowned. "You have to go to the store," she said.

"The store?"

I was confused. She offered no clarification, but merely looked at an old wooden building on the property.

"Is that the store?"

"Yes."

As Thomas and I made our way to the store, I commented on Bertha's lack of hospitality. "What a bitch," I profferred.

The store smelled like Christmas, and was lined pine ceiling to floor with GWTW memorabilia that I already own (except for the Scarlett O'Hara nightlight. Don't have one of those. Yet.) The woman behind the counter was kind, if slow, writing out our tickets as if with lead hands and drawling (not once but three times) about how the school on the grounds was arranged for the next day's luncheon.

"The school is decorated for the luncheon. We're having a luncheon at the school tomorrow. Sometimes we have luncheons here and tomorrow we're having a luncheon..."

Now officially "ticketed," Thomas and I gave each other "the look" and stifled our giggles as we proceeded to the school. We'd heard they were having a luncheon there, and we wanted to check it out.

After the school, Thomas and I made our way back to the house, where a pair of ladies, one older one young (mother and daughter perhaps?) had joined Bertha on the porch. Bertha was chatting with them openly. She stopped when Thomas and I approached. The mother/daughter team were kind to us. We joked as we had seen these two ladies on the bus tour previously. We entered the house.

As we did so, Bertha turned on a CD narration and left the room. Our crew of 4 was left to wander about the first floor of the house and listen to the poorly-acted narration meant to be the owner of the home. The actor had chosen a southern drawl for a man who had been born in Ireland. Thomas and I--actors ourselves--lamented this oversight.

We weaved in and out of the rooms, noting the period decor, all emblazoned with signs reading "DO NOT TOUCH" in all caps. Bertha came back in and watched us. As she did, Thomas went into the back part of the house that was, apparently, administrative. He hadn't been back there two seconds--he was just realizing he had walked in--THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR--to a room that now served as a kitchen, when Bertha yelled through the house "That's not part of the tour! Come out of there!"

She yelled this in front of everyone.

I was angry, but I held my tongue.
Thomas apologized, saying he didn't know.
Bertha quick waddled her way back into the kitchen--I presume to make sure Thomas hadn't broken or stolen anything--and Thomas and I headed upstairs, followed by the mother/daughter pair.

I paused on the steps. "Just want to make sure she isn't going to yell again," I told Thomas.

Once upstairs, we were examining the bedrooms from the hallway (the bedrooms in such places are usually blocked off by a guardrail to prevent damage). As we did so, Bertha appeared at the top of the stairs.

"You know, if you want to know the history of this place, you really should stay downstairs and listen to the tape. When it's done we can come up here and I will answer any questions."

Dutifully, the mother/daughter team headed down the stairs to listen to the droning southern Irishman. Completely uninterested in a history we both already knew, Thomas and I stayed upstairs, examining a cabinet filled with toiletries from the time.

Bertha stayed at the top of the stairs, watching us. She stared uncomfortably for a solid three minutes while Thomas and I marveled at some ornate hairpins before rudely interrupting, in a voice like ice,

"Alright, that's enough. I need you to go downstairs."

Camel's back, meet straw.

I rounded on her. "Can't we just enjoy our tour as we see fit?"

She puffed up like a toad, eyes wide as saucers, and began to retort in an equally condescending tone about "doing her job" when I cut her off.

"Obviously we cannot, as you've been on our ass from the moment we walked in the door."

With Thomas close behind me, I pushed past Bertha and stalked to the door. Bertha was stunned. Thomas was stunned. The mother/daughter pair were stunned. At the door, I said something about "having no excuses for being insufferably rude," and stormed out, assuming Thomas would follow. He did. All the way to the Creek huts, where I stomped about furiously.

I don't know if she had just had a long day, if she wanted to get out early, if she literally had no sense of decorum, or if she had a fucking problem with the fact that a young white woman had come accompanied by a young black man...(Oh! Let her say something to me about THAT!) but that bitch was out of line, and I don't care if I had to be the one to tell her so.

Because there is no excuse for being rude to paying patrons. Or to anyone who hasn't done anything wrong by you.
Because there is absolutely no reason to watch two young people as if they were criminals. This isn't 1864 for fuck's sake.

And because, bitch, I guarantee that YOU don't have a damned thing to teach ME about "Gone With the Wind."

Bitch, let me tell you a story about "Gone With the Wind." Let me tell you about how Margaret Mitchell was not allowed into the Junior League because she had the audacity to dance provocatively with a Georgia Tech student in front of the Georgian Terrace. Let me tell you about how, after she wrote her famous novel the Junior Leaugers came back, begging her favor. Let me tell you about how quickly she told them to go straight to hell.

Let me tell you about Scarlett O'Hara. Let me tell you how she ran a business for herself, by herself, when women were meant to stay at home birthing babies. Let me tell you what she thought of societal morays when she stole India Wilkes' beau and snagged herself three husbands. Let me tell you abou how she started a scandal by visiting a man in jail and by hugging her best friends' husband. Let me tell you how half the men and women of Clayton County owed their life to a woman they didn't even like.

They sure as fuck didn't do it by listening to and staying within the acceptable bounds mandated by ancient peahens like you, Mrs. Merriweather and Mrs. Pittypat Hamilton.

For no conceivable reason, you were rude to me and to my friend on no less than three occasions. Margaret Mitchell wouldn't have stood for that. Scarlett O'Hara wouldn't have stood for that. And, Bertha, as you now WELL know, I'm not going to stand for that.

Yep, you're fucking with the wrong southern belle. Y'all.

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