Pass the cheese and rice, Matilda

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You ever hear little snippets of conversation you really, really want to chime in on, but your sanity and upbringing prevent you from doing it? This happens to me all over the place, but more frequently in travel plazas, because there are so many different dialects going on in travel plazas. It’s like being assaulted with accents and phrases that keep you awake at night, trying to figure out where the hell they came from and what they mean.

Well, maybe not “you,” but it happens to me a lot. I’ll be disembarking in the fuel lane, getting ready to run in for a quick pit stop, when a phrase like, “Cheese and rice, Matilda!” stops me in my tracks and I get the same look a dog gets when you say, “Wanna treat?”

“One day we’ll talk about why this picture makes me nervous.”“One day we’ll talk about why this picture makes me nervous.”

“Cheese and rice Matilda” might have sounded like a delicious side dish, if the person uttering the exclamation hadn’t been so put off. I couldn’t figure out if Matilda had spilled the cheese and rice, or left it at home. A huffy, puffy little bald man, attempting to fuel his excessively motor home, stormed around the side, muttering about Matilda’s inability to line the “gas hole” up with the pump properly, made me wonder further about what cheese and rice had to do with any of this. I wanted very badly to tell him that “gas hole” was incorrect terminology, but I was too busy giggling about him saying “gas hole.”

I was clued into the fact that he was actually taking the Lord’s name in vain when Matilda attempted to re-position the motor home again and almost took Huffy Puffy out. “Fa the love of Rice, Matilda! Cheesus, Mary and Joseph!”

He wasn’t saying “cheese and rice,” he was saying “Jesus Christ.” And he was mad as the Devil. Which also clued me into the fact that I indeed should not stop to tell him how funny I thought it was when he was yelling about cheese and rice and gas holes. Sometimes I listen to my instincts. I was also concerned that Matilda might kill me with her attempts to get the gas hole close enough to the hose.

Sometimes, my inane ability to light upon the oddest conversation in the room has helpful outcomes. I speak fluent South, and am even adept at a little Louisiana. This came in handy when I watched two very confused looking Canadian people wander back towards their car after the clerk at the Tennessee truck stop tried to give them directions. I understood what he meant perfectly when he said, “Y’all gon’ go down bout a mile or so, take a left at Baptist church, now if you uns’ get on down to the Pentecostal church, y’all’ve gone a fer piece past it.”

I could tell from the look on their faces he may as well have been speaking in tongues, but they were polite. I was somewhat concerned, because small Southern towns generally have about 9 churches on every block, so directions containing a church as a landmark are fairly vague to begin with. I could see the lady thinking, “What is a y’all’ve?” and I knew it was time to tell her the direction-giver wasn’t talking about something you put in a martini, before these poor people ended up down at Brother Bob’s snake handling revival and had a really hard time getting directions from the faithful drinking strychnine.

(Now I’m probably gonna need to put in here somewhere that I mean no disrespect to the Pentecostal brothers and sisters, I know several fine people who practice the religion, but y’all do have to admit some of you get a little wound up at services sometimes. It reminds me that I need to tell the story about the time my great granny took me to a Primitive Baptist Revival in Fleahop, Alabama, and I was certain someone was going to inflict bodily harm on me with a tambourine before the night was through. Folks got so riled up they looked like they had been to a Pearl Jam mosh pit when it was over. It’s a little scary to the unaffiliated, that’s all I’m saying.)

So every once in a while, being a conversation voyeur can be a good thing, but most of the time it just leaves me wondering about things like cheese and rice, and just who in the hell told Huffy Puffy the fuel tank is called a “gas hole.”

Haha. You said “gas hole.”

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