As I read Darrell Huckaby's column ("Mason-Dixon Line, language barrier," 9A, June 22) I laughed not only because it was funny, but because I also experienced that communication, or more appropriately, lack of communication problem north of Mason-Dixon Line of Demarcation.
After leaving the Air Force in 1979, I took a job with a Navy civilian contractor based in Newport, R.I., to write the training course
for the computer used on the Trident submarines. After landing in Providence, I drove down to Newport arriving at the Howard Johnson motel
at around 1 a.m. After buzzing me in the door, the older lady sitting behind a desk behind the counter asked, "Can I Help You" in what sounded to this Alabama-born young man like a foreign language.
I looked at her, and said with the deepest Southern accent, "Reservations for Jonathan DeLoach with Purvis Systems." The lady stared at me as if I had just goten off the flying saucer and said "Padon" (no "r" inserted).
I then repeated myself. The stare from the lady intensified and once again "Padon" was directed at me.
I then determined that even as slow as I spoke, I had to drop it down a notch, I then then spoke very slowly. The lady got up from the desk
and went to the 1979 state of art reservation system, a flat file set of index cards in a box and found my reservation.
She then came to the counter and said, "The reason I did not understand you is that you talk funny" to which I replied, "You ought to be on my side of the counter."
Thus began a six-month stay in what, on both sides of the conversation, was a daily exercise of repeating sentences and, even then, not communicating. Throw in the re-definition of a po-boy sandwich (referred to as a "grinder") or a milkshake (referred to as a frap) it
was an experience I will never forget.
But, I have to confess, the people, once we overcame the language barrier, were friendly and I had some good times north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Jonathan DeLoach, Lawrenceville