In the American South, we are raised with manners as a matter of breeding. We are taught to hold open doors for complete strangers, help those in need and say thanks to everyone for everything. And I do mean everyone for everything.
A few years ago, I was driving about 74 in a 55 during a rainstorm in Marlboro County, South Carolina, on my way back from Myrtle Beach. A cop stopped me and asked me the most original question, "Do you know how fast you were going?"
I answered truthfully, "About seventy-five."
He looked at me without blinking, saying, "And why was that?"
I shrugged, "Cause I didn't see you." Have I mentioned I'm sometimes honest to a fault?
The cop didn't appreciate my sense of humor, he promptly wrote me a ticket for 69 in a 55, 1 mph shy of losing my driver's license. He ripped the ticket off and handed it to me, still unsmiling, and do you know what I said?
I actually said thank you to a cop giving me a speeding ticket. Can you believe that? Saying thanks is so ingrained into my psyche that it never occurred to me to say anything differently.
Thank you. Two simple words that carry the weight of appreciation. When someone brings you a cake to welcome you to the neighborhood, you thank them. When a friend picks up the tab to celebrate your birthday, you thank them. When you buy a new car, you shake hands with the salesman, then thank them. It's what we do.
But I must say, though, it troubles me that I willfully thanked a cop for giving me a ticket. Southerner or not, I have to figure out what the acceptable thing to say in this situation is. Something that won't get me another ticket. Help?