Warning: This post treads sappy ground, so apologies in advance 😉
Columbus, Georgia is home to the nicest people in America. That is fact, not hyperbole. After spending four days working on a video shoot at Aflac’s headquarters there, I felt compelled to write about it. Of all the places I’ve visited in the south—from New Orleans to Tennessee and Virginia to other parts of Georgia—Columbus remains the cherry atop the southern hospitality cake.
The project I worked on gave me the opportunity to meet the AMAZING people employed by Aflac. At the risk of this post coming across as ad copy for their HR department, I have never spent time in an office with lovelier people. Each and every one was friendly, charming, polite, sweet, engaging and every other positive adjective you could imagine, while simultaneously being completely genuine and un-annoying. There’s nothing worse than a fake, overzealous, peppy person, amiright? Long conversations and brief hallway greetings equally left me wanting to adopt about 50 surrogate aunts and uncles from Columbus. It may sound trite and cliché, but seriously, southern hospitality is where it’s at.
As a native New Yorker who grew up on Long Island and has lived in NYC for the past 5 years, I often find myself defending New York and the New Yorkers who automatically get a bad rap for being assholes. That said, the description is totally warranted in some cases. I’m talking to you disgruntled coffee barista/sales clerk/enter person here. I consider myself a nice person, and value/appreciate/witness that quality in others, so I take pride in seeing someone help a mother carry her stroller down a staircase, for example. But I have plenty of grouchy/mean-spirited moments—a morning commute on a late and crowded subway train can do that to a girl. However, the pleasantness exuded by Columbus-ians (sp?) make me look like a total dipshit. There’s something in the water down there; they take it to the next level. And I willingly admit; it’s hard to always be nice in NY, or anywhere for that matter. Smiling at everyone you walk past isn’t top priority, lest you look like an escapee from Bellevue. But really, can the cashiers at my local C-Town at least make eye contact with me as they’re ringing up my Triscuits?!
On the flip side, being nice isn’t always considered the most desirable personality trait, either. I’ve heard of nice people being described as doormats; people who aren’t sure-footed or strong-willed. I like to think that you can be genuinely nice and still be badass and respected.
But back to the people of Columbus, GA. At one point during my trip, I attempted to buy a water bottle from a vending machine. This machine would just not take my dollar bill. I asked an older gentleman next to me if he knew if the machine was broken or not, and he offered to help. After taking a stab with my dollar bill, he proceeded to swipe his own credit card and buy the water bottle for me! This might not seem like a big deal—and I did give him my dollar in return—but it was such a helpful gesture that it put some pep in my step. It’s like that one commercial: witnessing or experiencing an act of kindness really does make you want to help someone else. Does anyone else feel like this is verging on self-help-book territory, lol? But I digress…
So, rather than doing lip service to this diatribe, I am going to channel the Columbus, GA way in my New York City life, and offer up a smile or a “hello,” without being creepy about it, of course. I already tried it on a security guard at JFK, but sadly it was lost on him. To the other 8+ million people who live in NYC, you better watch out.