I am from North Carolina.
Okay, I've only lived here since last September, but today I had an epiphany: I am starting to fit in.
Should I be scared?
This feeling of belonging is mainly based on some of my recent driving experiences, as I've been "commuting" to a distant postpartum doula job a lot lately. One thing I learned about North Carolina drivers is that most of them (us?) like to pretend that they (we?) are constantly competing in a NASCAR event; apparently NASCAR is a big deal here, which is another thing I never knew before I moved here. Anyway, today I was driving home from my job, and I was driving something between 70 and 75 mph in a 65 zone. I saw a police car and didn't even flinch, because I have learned that the acceptable speed to drive around here is understood to be 10-20 mph over what's posted. This is in direct opposition to where I learned to drive, in a town that didn't even have stoplights, and my whole life I have rarely driven more than 2 mph over the speed limit...until now, when that speed can be dangerously slow in many cases.
So I'm "speeding" along and suddenly there's a car that comes up behind me from out of nowhere, that has to be going at least 90, probably more like 100, mph. He swerves around me at the last possible second (completely unnecessarily) and zooms on by. A few seconds later, another one does the same thing, and I'm thinking maybe I'm stuck in an impromptu drag race or something...until the second car puts on his flashers and pulls the first guy over. Justice! And at last I know what does constitute unacceptable behavior on a North Carolina road, as that is one thing I've had trouble figuring out with all the hijinks that I see on the road on a daily basis.
Another common driving practice around here that is technically illegal has to do with left-turn lanes. See, the other day, I was in the left-hand "go straight" lane of a 4 lane road, coming up to a clearly green "go straight" light, and in front of me was a car with Arkansas tags that was stopped. WHAT? I thought to myself. Then I noticed that he was trying to turn left, but he had about 2 or 3 more feet of road before the actual lines painted on the road gave him a left turn lane to get into. In North Carolina, THIS DOESN'T MATTER. When you want to turn left, you just drive in the median until you get up to your lane. I have seen people doing this for over a block during rush hour. But this guy...he wasn't from here, so he didn't know the rules. And I DID! I was so proud. This was my true ah-ha! moment of belonging, that I was actually confused when a "ferriner" obeyed the traffic signals.
People run red lights here like nobody's business. As in, at just about every red light I see, I can guarantee that at least 2 people will run it....probably 3 or 4. At first I was shocked by this, but now I realize it's because the lights are often timed and not timed well, so if you don't run the light occasionally you might just be sitting there until your first grandchild is born. Not that I've done it...yet...but I get it now. Because I'm from North Carolina. ;)
I don't even blink at the scream of tires on my street corner where there is a small wreck just about once a month. I no longer find it strange when I'm driving down Road A and it intersects with Road B twice in a mile; I realize that Raleigh roads are all circular or U- or S-shaped now.I'm completely used to the fact that so many roads have two or more names that there have to be two signs on every stoplight, letting you know that if you turn left, you'll be on Northclift, but if you turn right, you'll be on Sandy Forks, or whatever...there are actually several signs like this that say, for example, left is King Charles Road and right is...King Charles Road. Because it would be crazy to just assume that the road's name will not change.
So, I've assimilated somewhat. Ben, however, is still shocked and somewhat upset that, when we put up the tree a few days ago, it was warm enough for him to be wearing a T-shirt and shorts. It was 81 degrees that day. To his Wisconsinite blood, this is sacrilegious, and Christmas is not Christmas without snow and/or freezing temperatures. To my inner Oklahoman, this is not an adjustment at all, just ordinary, everyday life.
Also part of ordinary life for me: laughing at the guy who had a license plate that said "ACURACY." Because I love me a good dose of irony.
I'm glad a few things about here and home are the same!