How We Go From 20 to 60 in One Second

Several years ago, I was out late one night in Rome, Italy, with two brothers from Texas. Walking back to our hotel in the Forum we saw at a major and busy intersection two very angry men facing off with each other, shouting into each others’ faces what must have been some very hateful Italian invectives, gesticulating wildly with their arms.

We stopped to watch the fight. Clearly they were going to fight.

Well, this went on for some time. Finally two lady cops sauntered up as calm as could be and the two men separated and calmed down. But perhaps it occurred to them that now that the cops had arrived they were no longer in danger so they started up again.

Soon thereafter two big man cops sauntered up as calm as they could be, which put a final end to the quarrel, the two angry men firing off final insults with voice and hands as they went their separate ways. We were disappointed.

It is a sight that I posit you will not often see in the South. I dont mean two angry men nose-to-nose exchanging accusations, insults, and challenges. You could see that often enough at any given beer joint between let’s say 11pm and 2am on a Friday or Saturday night.

What I do mean is that, though the Southern man can become very angry very quickly, he can usually push it down, keeping his anger at the offender to himself, just sharing it with all of his friends and family who will take his side immediately, the offender now being dead to them all… unbeknownst to the offender.

And when two Southern men do decide to throw down, it will as a rule skip the scene described above. Instead it will go from, ‘You got a problem?’ to, ‘And what if I do?’ to a rolling battle through furniture and across pool tables.

There’s the lit fuse, and then the explosion. Not so much in between.

This is just an observation and if there is any accuracy in it, it certainly does not cover the whole spectrum of the Southern temper.

M.C. Atkins

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