It had been approximately half an hour, and “fast food” seemed a painfully ironic term for the type of meals this small chain restaurant was serving.
As with everywhere else in the South, time was at a standstill.
During the entirety of my trip to the South for winter break, we never once encountered a sense of hurriedness or saw anyone rush. Time was a long, drawn out drawl reflected in the slow speech of the Southerners. Schedules merely guidelines. Timepieces — mere decorations.
Our journey into timelessness began in the tourist-friendly city of New Orleans. Bright lights, bustling people, and Bourbon Street made it reminiscent of a somewhat more historical Las Vegas. From boutiques to pubs, New Orleans had it all.
As we advanced through the South, however, time and people came to a standstill.
The cold capital of Jackson, Miss. was our next stop. We looked up at the soaring arches in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle and down the Senate chamber of the ornate State Capitol. Holed up in a hotel, New Year’s Eve passed by with only a few fireworks. It seemed even the residents of Jackson didn’t care much for the passing of a new year.
The next day, we drove to Montgomery, Ala. It was a ghost town, and we listened to the wind howl as we stood at the bus stop where Rosa Parks had boarded the legendary bus. We walked down the Main Street, which was eerily quiet and equally empty despite the multitude of stores and diners on either side. At the end of the boulevard, a huge Christmas tree dominated the front face of the state Capitol, twinkling with small lights and ornaments. Although Christmas had already passed and 2015 had begun, remnants of time gone by still lingered.
In Tallahassee, Fla., we strolled through sweet-smelling flowerbeds and immense gardens at the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. We gazed at the vibrant candy cane striped windows of Florida’s State Capitol and paid our respects at a Vietnam War memorial to the low rumble of lazy, slow-moving car engines on the Main Street.
We used the remaining days of our trip to meander back to Louisiana. In the light of the setting sun, we walked around the Old Louisiana State Capitol at Baton Rouge and talked to a local fisherman at the Riverfront.
“It’s quiet here,” he remarked, gazing over the dark water. His weekends consisted of leaning against the railing of the Riverfront and hoping for a big catch, a hobby that a Californian native might never have the patience for.
There was a certain peace that pervaded the natives of the South. When we asked for help, help was given — after a few minutes of casual conversation about the local community and culture. When we toured a site, we were educated — after the tour guide had asked us about California, how our days were going, and why in the world we would visit the South (evidently, the South was not a popular vacation spot for people from the West Coast). And, of course, when we ordered food, we received it — at least 30 minutes later.
Since we were on vacation, we easily fell into the natural rhythm of the South. Like children stepping into a slow-moving current, we let the beat of the South guide us, from the two-hour long midday break to the closing of all stores for certain holiday. Although we had not left the country, it felt as though we were in a whole other world.
As we drove through the wide expanses of fields and forests (there were no freeways around where we were currently driving — too fast, perhaps), I longed for the fast lane. While it’s true that time never stops for anyone, a visit to the South might just cause you to reconsider your life and readjust your watch.