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Posted: July 11, 2010 12:01 a.m.

Ready when you are

Every once in a blue moon we natives of the Deep South, having endured snide comments from transplanted Yankees whenever snow falls in Dixie, enjoy a little payback.

A few short months ago, our neck of the woods was blanketed in the deepest snowfall many Georgians could remember. The sky even spit snow on the beaches of Florida’s panhandle.

Naturally, in the interest of safety, schools all across this great state were closed. Everybody and their brother made a beeline for the nearest grocery store. Tardy customers cast wary glances at lengthy checkout lines where early arrivals, securely grasping milk jugs and bread loaves, triumphantly smiled back at them.

"You Georgia people don’t know beans about driving in snow," one Northern transplant spouted out loud to no one in particular. "Back in New York this wouldn’t even be considered a big deal."

Before I continue, a brief aside is necessary for the purpose of better educatin’ them what ain’t Georgia natives.

There was once, in these parts, a wonderful school man by the name of Homer Sharp Sr. He’s the "Sharp" in Sharp Stadium, and the Sharp Learning Center, which was previously Sharp Middle School. His son, Homer Junior, has been a longtime fixture at Little Emory at Oxford and is widely respected in his own right.

Anyway, Homer Sr.’s wife was the lovely Ida Mae Sharp. Now, she’s been gone from this life for a while now, but to me she was — and always will be — "Miss Ida Mae."

Miss Ida Mae had a sharp wit, and a million stories to tell if you had time to listen. Late in her life, Miss Ida Mae engaged me in a rambling conversation, the focus of which was transplanted Northerners moving into our area and trying to change everything.

"I’ll tell you the truth," Miss Ida Mae confided, "I was 15 years old before I knew damn and Yankee were actually TWO words!"

I love that story. And I suspect every native Georgian who read it chuckled, whether they thought it politically correct or not. Most likely it was because we all grew up hearing damn Yankee as one word, not two. My daddy, however, had to use the term sparingly, since his wife was born in ... Ohio.

Anyway, back to the first story. So I’m standing in line at the supermarket last whenever the big snow was, two gallons of milk and a loaf of bread firmly in hand. And the Northerner blurts out loud to anyone within earshot that WE don’t know anything about driving in snow, and that back in Noo Yawk this snow wouldn’t be a big deal.

Well, I thought about it for a moment. After all, you need to pick your battles. I asked myself, is it worth it?

Then I turned to the offensive one and said, "Excuse me, but have you ever heard of Delta Air Lines?"

The startled man acknowledged that he had.

"Well, by chance then," I added, "do you remember the advertising slogan Delta used back in the 1970’s, once termed the most popular motto ever used in the airline industry?"

The Northerner’s brow furrowed. Couldn’t recall that one.

"It went like this," I said. "Delta is ready when you are!"

Random folks chuckled audibly in the background. The guy didn’t get it. Hearing other folks chuckle added to his discomfort, and the wrinkles across his forehead deepened. At length, he turned to me.

"Just what’s so funny about that slogan?" he asked.

In a low tone so as not to incite further jocularity at his expense, I tactfully explained that there was nothing funny about the Delta slogan at all. The whole point of the phrase was to let folks know that whenever they wanted to go somewhere, Delta was ready to take them.

"Then what’s so funny?" the guy asked.

"Down here in the South," I explained succinctly, "we really don’t care how you did things up North. And we don’t need you to come down here and make fun of us and the way we do things. So when I quote that slogan I’m really telling you that if you don’t like it here — go back!

"What made it funny," I continued, "was that being a Northerner, you didn’t pick up on what I was saying. Local folks did, and realizing you didn’t made it even funnier."

Just this week I listened in amazed concern as news services lamented the heat wave currently cooking the North. Down here that kind of heat constitutes a normal summer. It’s not a big deal. At all.

So I reckon a Northern heat wave equates to a Dixie snowfall. Or maybe it’s just all that hot air from those snide damn Yankee comments about Southerners and snow coming home to roost.

At any rate, Delta is still ready.

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.

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