Monday, October 1, 2007
ACCENTS IN ATLANTA
(I promised a posting each day in September, and wouldn't you know? I neglected to do so on the last day of the month. So I'm posting today.)
For the last ten years I've traveled by planes, trains and automobiles. And by taxis. I believe taxi drivers are the most fascinating human beings on the earth. Some are philosophers, some are current events experts, some are like Musa, a nice man with dignity.
I stepped inside Musa's taxi at the Atlanta airport. Musa is a cheerful man from West Africa, who told me to visit South Africa when I mentioned that I'd love to visit one day. "South Africa is very nice," he said.
He told me he couldn't understand what some of his passengers were saying. "Some of them talk too fast, but I can understand you." Then he asked, "Can you understand me?"
"Yes," I told him. "Your English is great."
"I learned the British way," he said.
Musa and his family had moved to Atlanta three years ago. He seemed to like it, although he didn't like the traffic. Before he pulled up in front of the hotel he gave me his phone number and told me that he'd be happy to take me to the airport on Monday. "Just call me ahead of time," he said.
I told him that I might, but I recalled a time in Chicago when I had a similar arrangement and the driver was thirty minutes late. While I waited, I watched taxi after taxi pull up and leave. Never again, I promised myself.
Saturday I visited The Little Shop of Stories where I met with the Mommy and Me book club. Piper Reed Navy Brat was their latest book selection so they had a lot of questions about what was going to happen to Piper in the next book.
"Is Piper going to move?" one girl asked.
"Do you want her to move?" I asked.
They all called out, "No!"
I was thrilled by their response. One of the reasons I wanted to write at least three Piper Reed books is that I wanted civilian kids to experience what it was like for military kids. Moving is part of their childhood. So even though those young ladies may have not moved, they empathized with a child that settles down, makes friends, only to be plucked up from her surroundings and have to do it all over again somewhere else. Thank you, young ladies, for recognizing that.
Yesterday I participated in SIBA's(Southern Independent Booksellers Association)Movable Feast. A movable feast at a bookseller's conference is somewhat like speed dating. An author is seated at a table with eight booksellers. She has ten-twelve minutes to tell them about her new book. When the allotted time is up, the author moves to the next table.
I visited ten tables in two hours. It was fun. The booksellers made me feel like I was sitting on their front porch, spinning a yarn. They asked questions in their charming southern accents(there really is a difference between a Georgia and an Alabama accent). Of course some accents were Midwest and even British. I thank each of them for making me feel welcome.
This morning I ate Southern Eggs Benedict(poached eggs and corn hash on biscuits) with grits. Then I packed. I thought about calling Musa, but the girl at the register's desk assured me that there would be plenty of taxis. After my bad experience in Chicago, I decided I'd just take my chances.
When I checked out, I exited through the sliding glass door. There was one taxi waiting. The driver was leaning against the door, smiling--Musa.
"He's been waiting and waiting for you," the bellman said.
I felt terrible. I guess when I told him that I'd be leaving around 9:30 on Monday he thought that I meant to pick me up at that time. It was 9:50. I apologized and told him I thought that I was supposed to call him.
Musa didn't seem upset at all. He said, "No problem. We're fine." He put my luggage in the back and took off for the airport.
We chatted about Atlanta and his children. As we approached the airport's entrance he asked, "How can I improve my accent?"
"Improve your accent? I love your accent."
He explained that he wanted to speak where people could understand him. "One lady told me to listen to television and read books."
"Reading is good," I said. "But don't lose your accent. That makes you special."
He laughed. Then he pulled up in front of the Continental terminal. I didn't have time to tell him about the ten tables I sat at yesterday--all with lovely unique accents. It was part of what made them special, too.
Posted by Kimberly at 4:50 PM