Monday, April 6, 2009

You Can Lead A Hick To Food, But You Can't Make Him Pay

Please tell me I have the wrong information. I could swear that I just read that the United States donated $50,000 to Italy after the earthquake this morning. What are we, the freakin' Cheapa$$es of the World? Fifty thousand dollars? Don't we donate more than that for other countries to abort babies? Really.

I know the Prime Minister Gordon Brown gift of 25 DVDs of classic American movies, and the gifts to his sons of one model of Marine One per boy you say...thrifty. Economical, even. But not quite befitting such a special relationship as the U.S. has maintained with Great Britain. Until now. The Queen's iPod and coffee table book of showtunes didn't set us back all that much financially. But perhaps it exacted a greater toll on the turnpike of public opinion.

Now we donate $50,000 in the aftermath of an earthquake in which 100 people were killed? Is that what the going rate is these days? Five hundred dollars a head?

This whole cheapa$$ business makes my head hurt. It reminds me of another time when we were called cheapa$$es. Not 'we' as in American citizens. I mean 'we' as in my senior class. It was a different world back then. The hicks didn't get out of the country much. And by 'country', I don't mean the U.S. By 'country', I mean the backroads and the hollers of Hillmomba.

There were 173 students in my graduating class. Most of them went on the Senior Trip. We had worked at selling magazines for four years to foot the bill for this excursion. I was a magazine captain, FYI. That meant that I got to miss 2nd period to sit in the Student Lounge with the other magazine captains and count up money and subscriptions. Ah, yes. It was a different day and time. Kids could even take their lunch trays to the Student Lounge. It was totally unsupervised. And kids could SMOKE in there. Not secretly. It was permitted. And there were soda machines. It was a regular den of iniquity. But I digress.

We chartered three Greyhound buses for the Senior Trip. Our adventure took us out of Missouri, through Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, to Florida and Daytona Beach and Disney World. Along the way, we had to visit historical sites, such as the Cyclorama, and the Space Center at Huntsville, and numerous Civil War battlegrounds, and the fort at St. Augustine. That's how I remember it, anyway.

I had the coolest sponsors on my bus. They let us put shaving cream in the open mouths of the sleepers. But that's beside the point. I am meandering my way to a southern cafeteria somewhere in Alabama or Georgia. We hicks didn't know nothin' about cafeterias. The only one we knew of was the school cafeteria, which was very different.

The minute we entered the cafeteria, we were swarmed by workers wanting to carry our trays. Being strong country boys and girls with two good arms and two good legs, we all said, "That's OK. I can get it." And we proceeded to get our own stuff and carry it to our tables, and clean up when we were done. That's how we were raised. Imagine our surprise upon leaving, to hear the workers hissing, "Cheapa$$ Hillmomba!" It was doubly surprising to us, because calling somebody a 'cheapa$$' is terribly bad manners, and because the thought never entered our mind that we would be expected to PAY somebody a TIP for doing absolutely nothing for us.

Which just goes to show that you can take a hick out of Hillmomba, but you can't take a tip out of a hick.

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