Anytime you walk out of a front door in North Carolina, at least one person will say, “Y’all, be safe.” Friends say it as you head home after game night, family says it when they hug you after a visit, and total strangers say it before you depart gas stations or stores.
Sometimes we mix it up with a be careful, but it means the same thing.
I never considered it strange that we do this until my cousin, Wendy, sent me a video about it.
The video told a story about a Southerner and Yankee telling one another goodbye. When the Southerner told them to be careful, the Yankee wondered: what is lurking in the South that makes everyone advise you to watch your back?
It made me laugh.
Are there boogers and haints around every corner in the South? Of course not.
But there is a touch of fatalism. Most of us are at least somewhat superstitious and acutely aware that death is always nearer than we’d like. In true Southern fashion, we don’t bother to hide it.
Why should we? It is a part of our culture.
We’re a little fatalistic for a good reason. We live in a place with some of America’s most venomous snakes, gators, and sharks. Our storm seasons are epic. There’s always the chance of a deer darting out in front of your car on some rural road. And every one of us recalls some terrible fate befalling a loved one, neighbor, or friend.
So if you’re not from around here, please know: when we say, “Y’all, be safe,” we mean it. Just do us a favor and give us a call when you get home so we don’t worry.