The entire United States of America can be reduced to only three basic regions: soda, pop and coke.
The only way of objectively telling which of these regions you’re in is to figure out which of the three labels is most commonly attached to soft drinks.
Sure, some trends exist; for instance, pop is generally more common in the North, and coke is more acceptable in the South, but these trends are not absolute.
Most counties and cities, however, have one label that they stick to and stick to violently.
In the Chicago area, where I come from, it would be a heresy to ask for anything other than “pop” when ordering a carbonated beverage. I proudly upheld my distinction as a proud north-midwestern pop-drinker. Until recently, anyway.
At a recent lunch I got up and announced that I was going to get some soda. While I was halfway through filling my cup, the realization of what I had just said set in.
I’m honestly still not sure what was responsible for my slip of the tongue. Most likely just increased exposure to the foreign term, “soda.”
After the initial shock wore off, I realized that switching regional labels was a rather painless compromise. I also realized that maybe I had put way too much thought into the proper term of address for soft drinks.
Recently this revelation came to mind again, and it helped me realize that I place a weird amount of value on a lot of things that honestly don’t matter that much.
On the subject of regional identity, I remember coming to Bob Jones University a little over two years ago thinking that living in the South off-and-on for four years was a sacrifice I would have to make in the name of higher education. The South is home to overly friendly people, high humidity and red dirt and therefore was weird.
With time, I realized that what bothered me was not that things are “weird” in Greenville as opposed to the “normality” of Chicago. The problem was that they were different. With time, I adjusted to the humidity and came to appreciate the culture of Southern hospitality as a welcome change from the business-only culture of Chicago. Honestly, I’m still not 100 percent sure how I feel about the red dirt, though.
I realized that I actually judge many things very superficially and am repelled by how they differ from what I consider “normal,” rather than celebrating what makes them unique.
As humans, we like to create “us and them” type distinctions between ourselves and others based on our taste in food, clothing, entertainment, sports teams and thousands of other benign everyday things.
And we like to think these distinctions somehow make us superior to those on the opposite side.
As often as we use them to create division, these subtle differences in the people and things around us play a key role in making life unique and interesting. And finding out why people value things differently than us can help us create strong and meaningful relationships with them.
It’s humbling to think of all the knowledge, experiences and opportunities I have probably missed due to excuses such as, “That’s not what I do,” or “I don’t think about it that way.”
These excuses can “pop” up in almost any area of life, from book and movie preferences to favorite foods, preferred weather and even the right word used to refer to carbonated beverages.
As much as I may value those kinds of things as part of my personality, they really don’t matter that much, and certainly not enough to alienate myself from others who think differently.
All this considered, I personally still think “pop” sounds best.