LIVING IN MEMPHIS
LIVING IN MEMPHIS
A guide for new residents and visitors
1. Memphis is pronounced "MEM'-fus."
2. Coca-Cola is bottled in Memphis. That's all we drink here, so don't
ask for any other soft drink. FYI, it's pronounced "Co'Cola" and it
is called this no matter which flavor you want. Don't call it soda,
pop, or soda-pop. We don't know what you mean when you say that. A
few local restaurants serve "Pepsi" only. We're working on that.
3. We drink sweet tea here. We like it so sweet that one more spoonful
of sugar will give you a headache. If you put one pack of sugar in
a glass of tea, you're a wuss. A few local restaurants serve unsweet
tea only. We're working on that too.
4. Our local water supply comes from an Artesian Well. Even though we
don't know what exactly what that means, and most of us don't even
drink plain water, we think it's a big deal, so act like you do too.
5. We use the title "Sir" or "Ma'am" when speaking to you if there's the
slightest possibility you're at least 30 minutes older than we are.
6. The title "Sugar" is a more common form of addressing someone than
"Miss" or "Mister." So is "Honey" or "Darlin."
7. The name "Presley" can be properly pronounced only by someone who
is a native Memphian, so do not attempt it. If you try, people will
simply tilt their heads to the right and stare at you with their mouth
open. The same goes for "Thank you very much," another Presley-ism.
8. On a fairly regular basis, you are going to hear sentences that start
with "Hey Yall..." Get over it. For reference, see #9 and #10.
9. When we say "yall," we mean you, even if you're the only one standing
there. Don't say "you guys" to us. We don't know who you mean when you
say that. "You guys want a soda?" is a very bad thing to say. See #2.
10. If you hear "Hey yall, look at this!" or "Hey yall, watch this!" you
should probably stand back. It's likely someone's about to get hurt.
This is equal to the red-shirt ensign running off-screen in a "Star
Trek" episode and yelling, "Captain! Look what I've found!"
11. You will also often hear us say we are fixin' to do something, such as,
"I'm fixin' to go to the store." It means "about to". Get used to it.
12. When we say something is "out yonder way," it means over there. When
you ask where something is and we say, "out yonder way," just go away.
The same rule applies to "out thataway."
13. Memphis is in the south, but we forget that. We call it as the "Mid-
South," as if that makes a difference. If you refer to us as southern
or rednecks, we will stare at you as though you're speaking Chinese.
14. Professional wrestling was invented in Memphis. Jerry "the King"
Lawler is from Memphis, and still lives here. Most of us think we
know him personally. If you don't like wrestling, that's fine, just
act you do when you hear us talking about it.
15. Memphis is in the "Bible-belt." We go to church on Sunday, even after
a Saturday night of partying or casino-hopping. We will sometimes go
straight from a Saturday night party to church, because it's 9:00 AM
before we know it. Get used to it, and if you come to visit over a
weekend, bring dress clothes. Also, Sunday morning is the time to go
to church. If you're Catholic and do that "Saturday night" thing, we
just don't get that.
16. Even though the Peabody is "The South's Grand Hotel," most Memphians
have never stayed there. We don't know how much rooms are, and can
barely tell you how to get there. We can tell you about the $18 per
night hotel, which isn't a bad deal if you remembered to bring your
guns with you. The Peabody is widely know as the hotel that's right
across from the Rendezvous restaurant. In recent years, it's become
easier to give directions to the Peabody, because now it's "Kind of
across from the new ballpark." We can, however, tell you about the
Peabody ducks. For some reason, that seems like a big deal to us.
17. The Rendezvous is one of the most well-known barbecue restaurants in
existence, but most of us don't go there. If you ask where to get
good barbecue or ribs, we can usually point you to some other place
that will be a "hole in the wall." If you absolutely must go to the
Rendezvous, it's located right across from that hotel at the corner
of Union and Third Street. Or is it Second Street? We don't really
know. We think it's kind of near the new ballpark. See #16.
18. Last year, we had 16 gun shows, pretty much one every 3 weeks. Some-
times they're at the fairgrounds where they should be, and sometimes
they're out east at the Agri-center. Either way, if you visit on a
weekend when there is a gun show, plan on looking at guns, 'cause that
is where we'll be.
19. There have been casinos near Memphis since 1992. There are hundreds
if not thousands of professional gamblers here now, and have been, well,
since about 1992. We're fast learners, so don't tell us how to gamble.
We know more than you do. After all, we have casinos here now.
20. On the flip side, on any given night, all 9 casinos are busy. There are
hundreds, if not thousands, of Shelby county cars at any given casino,
but, if you ask around the city, no one here gambles. It's amazing.
21. If you don't like the weather here, wait; it will change shortly. We are
one of the few cities where you can sweat like a pig when the temperature
is only 70 degrees. We have that great thing called humidity. It can be
70 degrees air temperature here, but 93 percent humidity. It's great!
22. If it's 98 degrees outside, happy holidays! Christmas is almost here!
DRIVING IN MEMPHIS
GENERAL DRIVING TIPS
1. Memphians only know their way home and their way to work.
2. Gate One at the Airport is 32 miles away from the Main Concourse.
3. If one raindrop falls, all traffic immediately comes to a screeching halt.
Daylight Saving Time, a girl applying eye shadow across the street, or a
flat tire three lanes over has the same effect. Should (God forbid) one
snowflake fall in Memphis, all drivers on the roads immediately lose any
ability to control a car. Or, if in a pickup truck or SUV, they will
drive as though the roads are dry.
4. If you're standing on a corner and a MATA Bus stops, you're expected to
get on and go somewhere - although no one actually knows where the buses
go. There are bus schedules available at the bus station, but if we could
get there, we probably wouldn't need to take the bus in the first place.
5. The 8 a.m. rush hour is from 6:30 A.M. to 9:30 A.M. The 5:00 P.M. rush hour
is from 3:30 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. Friday's rush hour starts Thursday night.
6. Memphis' traffic is some of the friendliest around. The commuters spend
hours mingling with each other twice a day. In fact, Memphis' traffic is
rated number 1 in the country. You will often see people parked beside
the road and engaged in lively discussions.
7. The 95 pound woman driving the Cadillac Escalade (the largest vehicle ever
produced) absolutely MUST come to a complete stop, then proceed at 2 mph
over any railroad track. Let's face it, this vehicle was built to invade
small countries, but will fall apart if driven fast over a railroad track!
8. A hard and fast rule of the road in Memphis: Never use your turn signal
when changing lanes on any freeway. Use it randomly on surface streets.
9. Another road rule in Memphis: when pulling out from a side street, pull
into whichever lane of oncoming traffic has a car coming in it. If no cars
are coming, sit there for a few seconds in case some do. If cars are coming
in all lanes, pull into the lane where the car is approaching fastest. In
any case, be sure to go slower than the car you pull in front of. He is
probably driving to fast, and you're performing a civic duty by making him
slow down, even if you're going 15 miles per hour under the speed limit.
10. Yet another rule: if a car is about to pass you in any lane, speed up as
the car gets even with you. Drive beside him for a while matching his speed,
then slow back down to your original speed. It is also acceptable to first
speed up instead of slowing down, getting way ahead of him, then slow back
to let him go back by you. These sudden, random increases and decreases
of speed are necessary to properly maintain your car.
11. It is a driver's duty to take out any pedestrian when crossing the street.
12. There is hardly a neighborhood in Memphis that doesn't have a sidewalk,
but many Memphis pedestrians walk in the street, making #11 much easier.
13. Red means stop, green means go, yellow means go VERY FAST!
14. Most native Memphians do not know how to get around downtown.
15. If you see an old person driving with a blinker on, honk! It keeps
1. Downtown Memphis is comprised mostly of one-way streets. The only
way to get out of downtown Memphis is to turn around and start over
when you reach Arkansas or Mississippi.
2. All directions start with, "Go down I-240..."
3. I-240 has no beginning and no end.
4. It's impossible to go around a block and wind up on the street where you
began. The Chamber of Commerce calls it "scenic drive." Also see #13-19.
5. Reversible Lanes (for example, Union Avenue) are not understood by anybody.
6. Construction on I-240 is perpetual, a way of life, and a permanent
form of entertainment for the road construction companies.
7. Construction crews aren't doing their job properly unless
they close down all lanes except one during rush hour.
8. I-240 is the southern equivalent of the Autobahn. You will rarely see a
semi-truck on I-240, because the truck drivers are intimidated by the
oversized SUV-wielding housewives racing home after a grueling day at
the salon or the tennis match, to meet their children at the school bus.
9. Speed limit signs are a suggested minimum. If you're only going to go
ten MPH over the speed limit, for goodness sake, get in the "slow" lane.
10. Even though I-240 is known as a "loop," you cannot drive its
entire circumference without taking several exits.
11. Even though it is the largest indoor arena in the region, there is no easy
way to reach The Pyramid. You must drive under a series of interstate
off-ramps and through the back of a concrete company in order to park.
Once you reach the building, you must climb up dozens of steps, even if
your seats are at floor level, which means you will be climbing back
DOWN dozens of steps after entering the arena.
12. A typical set of Midtown directions may include, "take North Parkway East
until you reach East Parkway, then take East Parkway South until you reach
South Parkway, then take South Parkway West until you reach..."
13. If you drive South from Shady Grove Road, you will end up on Ridgeway Road
without taking any turns. If you continue South, you will eventually be on
Hickory Hill Blvd, again without taking any turns. However, Ridgeway Road
will be parallel to you about a mile to the East. Memphis' street names
change without warning. It is common knowledge that Memphis was laid out
by a drunk Indian on a crippled horse. Just go to Winchester Road out East,
and try to distinguish between the intersections of Germantown Road, Old
Germantown Road, and Germantown Road Extended/Riverdale.
14. People in Memphis do not know street names (see #13.) There is an inter-
section of two streets near Midtown. The "two" streets are Summer Avenue,
North Parkway, Trezevant Boulevard, and East Parkway. This situation
(two intersecting streets with four names) is not atypical.
15. Summer Avenue is also know as Highway 70, 79, and 64. If you travel east
on Summer from the intersection described above, you will eventually wind
up in Bartlett at another main intersection. This "two" street intersection
is the corner of Summer Avenue, U.S. 70, Highway 79, Highway 64, and Stage
Road. Summer Avenue is known as Highway 64, however, you must turn right
onto Stage Road to stay on Highway 64.
16. Right before the intersection described in #15, you will pass a two street
intersection known as Summer Ave, U.S. 70, Highway 79, Whitten Road, and
17. There is also a widely known street in Memphis named Saint Elmo. Saint Elmo
runs in at least 5 or 6 different places in the city, of which, most sections
traverse less than a mile, and some of them don't even run the same direction.
18. The two interstates in Memphis are I-240 and I-40. The name of the interstate
is dependent on what part of it you are on. Parts of I-240 are called I-40.
On one particular section of the "Loop," if you are traveling one direction,
you are on I-40 West, but traffic on the opposite side of the same section
traveling the other direction, is on I-240 South. I-40 West suddenly becomes
I-55 South. Because of this, we do not know directions either.
19. Many other large streets do the same thing. In downtown Memphis, there is a
street named Auction that runs for about a block, then becomes Jackson Avenue,
which becomes Austin Peay Highway, which is the same as Highway 14. Stratford
becomes Covington Pike, which becomes Singleton Parkway. Macon Road becomes
McCrory for about one block, then McCrory becomes White Station Road. Sycamore
View becomes Bartlett Road. Park becomes Poplar Pike. West Street becomes
Farmington Road. Danny Thomas becomes Thomas, which becomes Highway 51. Union
Avenue becomes Walnut Grove. These are just a few examples of the main streets.
Many of the smaller surface streets do the same thing.
20. Directions in Memphis are not your typical "North, South, East, and West."
"Which direction do I go?" is typically answered by "towards Mississippi,
towards Arkansas, or towards Nashville." Directions off of Summer Ave are
typically interspersed with statements like "towards where the Harley Shop
used to be," "towards Putt-Putt," "towards Bartlett," "towards Downtown,"
or "towards West Memphis." West Memphis is actually in another state. To
get there, you must get up onto either the New Bridge or the Old Bridge.
We do know things like, the Old Bridge takes over to you where the original
Pancho's is or the original Wal-Mart was, and the New Bridge takes you over
to where the Dog Track is. If you're travels take you north of the city, we
can't give directions. Most people forget that Millington is north of Memphis,
so we don't know to say "towards Millington." Directions to destinations in
Missouri rarely include "Northwest." Most likely, they will include the phrase
"through Arkansas, but not towards Little Rock. It's to the right out of West
Memphis." In recent years, we've seen an increase in use of the phrase "like
you're going to Tunica."
21. When coming into Memphis from Nashville, I-40 suddenly becomes Sam Cooper and
then just a few miles later, Sam Cooper becomes Broad Street. Broad Street only
extends about a mile and stops at North Parkway, near the intersection of North
Parkway, Summer Avenue, U.S. 70, and Trezvant described previously.
22. When coming into Memphis from the East, or leaving Memphis to the West, you're
"coming from" or "going towards" Nashville even if you're coming from or going
to Jackson, TN, which is 120 miles closer than Nashville. We forget Jackson is
there. Learn to live with it.
22. Native Memphians cannot distinguish between the Mississippi River bridges named
"Memphis-Arkansas Bridge" and "Hernando DeSoto Bridge" nor can they distinguish
between the "I-55 Bridge" and the "I-40 Bridge." They are ONLY known locally as
the "Old Bridge" and the "New Bridge" (even though the "New Bridge" is almost
thirty years old. (also see #20)
23. Memphians are also notorious for not being able to give driving directions or
driving times to other well-known major cities in the same area of the country.
For instance, Nashville, TN is 200 miles due east from Memphis, straight out
I-40, with no required stops or detours, yet if you ask someone in Memphis how
to get to Nashville, you will usually be told it take 6 or 8 hours to get there.
Jackson, MS is 200 miles due south of Memphis, straight down I-55, with no
required stops, but you will be told it takes 6 or 8 hours to get there too.
New Orleans, LA is 400 miles due south of Memphis, straight down I-55, with no
required stops or detours, other than perhaps a stop for gasoline, but you will
be told it take 12 or 13 hours to get there.
To go to Biloxi, MS out of Memphis, you go to Jackson, MS (see above) and then
from there you get on Highway 49 and go southeast for 155 miles. This makes a
total of 355 miles. Most Memphians however, would never consider going there
for a weekend, because they think it takes 10 to 12 hours to get there.
We apparently have a problem with math too. If you ask someone how it takes 6 or
8 hours to drive 200 miles, the best they can usually come up with is "It just
does." If you explain the mathematics of it, 200 miles divided by 70 MPH (it's
70 MPH almost all the way) is just under three hours, so even if you add an extra
hour for restroom stops and the area near Jackson, TN where the speed limit drops
to 65 MPH for a couple of miles, that's still only about 4 hours, the person will
usually just stare at you like a deer in headlights.
WELCOME TO THE CITY!!!!!
THINGS YOU WILL NEVER HEAR A MEMPHIAN SAY
"Man, that mayor really knows his stuff."
"We sure do get our money's worth from the power company."
"That street goes for miles and never changes names!"
"Hey look! A courteous driver!"
"I'm not a very good driver, so I try to stay out of everybody's way."
"I'm only going 50. I think I'll get out of the slow lane."
"There's a car coming, so I think I'll wait until it passes before I pull out."
"You guys want a soda?"
"I stayed at the Peabody last night."
"Texas barbecue made from beef is much better than the stuff you get here."
"Yes, I go to the casinos all the time."
"The light is yellow. You'd better stop."
"It's quicker if you don't get on the interstate."
"Hey! That construction project took much less time than they projected."
"I know the actual names of the 'Old Bridge' and the 'New Bridge.'"
"I don't live inside the city limits, but I can't wait until I do!"
GENERAL GUIDE TO THE SOUTH
In an effort to help outsiders understand the south, the following list
should be handed to each driver entering any southern states:
1. That farm boy standing next to the feed bin did more work before
breakfast than you do all week at the gym.
2. It's called a 'gravel road.' No matter how slow you drive, you're
going to get dust on your Navigator. I have a four wheel drive
because I need it. Drive it or get it out of the way.
3. We all started hunting and fishing when we were seven years old.
Yeah, we saw Bambi. We got over it.
4. Make any references to "corn fed" when talking about our women
and you will get your butt whipped...by our women.
5. Go ahead and bring your $600 Orvis Fly Rod. Don't cry to us if a
flathead catfish breaks it off at the handle. We have a name for
those little trout you fish for...bait.
6. Pull your pants up. You look like an idiot.
7. If your cell phone rings while a flock of mallards are making their
final approach, we will shoot it! You might hope you don't have it
up to your ear at the time.
8. That's right. Whiskey is only two bucks. We can buy a fifth for what
you paid in the airport for one drink.
9. No, there's no "Vegetarian Special" on the menu. Order steak. Order
it rare, or you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the two
pounds of ham and turkey.
10. If you bring something called Coke into my house, it better be brown,
wet, and served over ice.
11. So you have a sixty-thousand dollar car you drive on weekends. We're
real impressed. We have quarter of a million dollar combines that we
use two weeks a year.
12. Let's get this straight. We have one stoplight in town. We stop when
it's red. We may even stop when it's yellow.
13. Our women hunt, fish, and drive trucks-because they want to. So, you're
a feminist. Isn't that cute?
14. Yeah, we eat catfish. Carp and turtle, too. You really want sushi and
caviar? They are available at the bait shop.
15. They are pigs. That's what they smell like. Get over it. Don't like
it? Interstates 70, 80, 90 & 94 go two ways-Interstates 29 & 35 go the
other two. Pick one and use it accordingly.
16. The "Opener" refers to the first day of deer season. It's a
religious holiday. You can get breakfast at the church.
17. So every person in every pickup waves. It's called being friendly.
Understand the concept?
18. Yeah, we have golf courses. Don't hit in the water hazard. It spooks
19. That Highway Patrol Officer that just pulled you over for driving
like an idiot...his name is "Sir" no matter how old he is.
Now, enjoy your visit and go home.
ONLY A SOUTHERNER KNOWS
Only a Southerner knows the difference between a hissy fit and a conniption
fit, and that you don't have them, you PITCH them.
Only a Southerner knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens,peas,
beans, etc., make up a mess.
Only a Southerner can show or point out to you the general direction of yonder.
Only a Southerner knows exactly how long directly is -- as in: Going to town,
be back directly.
Even Southern babies know that Gimme some sugar is not a request for the
white, granular sweet substance that sits in a pretty little bowl in the
middle of the table.
All Southerners know exactly when by and by is. They might not use the term,
but they know the concept well.
Only a Southerner knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a
neighbor who's got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of
cold potato salad. If the neighbor's trouble is a real crisis, they also
know to add a large banana puddin.
Only Southerners grow up knowing the difference between right near; and right
far piece; They also know that just down the road can be 1 mile or 20.
Only a Southerner, both knows and understands, the difference between a
redneck, a good ol' boy, and po' white trash.
No true Southerner would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn
signal is actually going to make a turn.
A Southerner knows that fixin can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adverb.
Put 100 Southerners in a room and half of them will discover they're
related, even if only by marriage.
Southerners know grits come from corn and how to eat them.
Every Southerner knows tomatoes with eggs, bacon, grits, and coffee are
perfectly wonderful; that red eye gravy is also a breakfast food; and that
fried green tomatoes are not a breakfast food.
When you hear someone say, Well, I caught myself lookin'- you know you are
in the presence of a genuine Southerner!
Only true Southerners say sweet tea and sweet milk. Sweet tea indicates the
need for sugar and lots of it -- we do not like our tea unsweetened. Sweet
milk means you don't want buttermilk.
And a true Southerner knows you don't scream obscenities at little old
ladies who drive 30 MPH on the freeway. You just say, Bless her heart and go
your own way.
To those of you who're still a little embarrassed by your Southerness: Take
two tent revivals and a dose of sausage gravy and call me in the morning.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE FROM CALIFORNIA WHEN
1. Your coworker has 8 body piercings and none are visible.
2. You make over $300,000 and still can't afford a house.
3. You take a bus and are shocked at two people carrying on a
conversation in English.
4. Your child's 3rd-grade teacher has purple hair, a nose ring, and
is named Breeze.
5. You can't remember...is pot illegal?
6. You've been to a baby shower that has two mothers and a sperm donor.
7. You have a very strong opinion about where your coffee beans are grown,
and you can taste the difference between Sumatran and Ethiopian.
8. You know which restaurant serves the freshest arugula.
9. You can't remember...is pot illegal?
10. A really great parking space can totally move you to tears.
11. A low speed police pursuit will interrupt ANY TV broadcast.
12. Gas costs $1.00 per gallon more than anywhere else in the U.S.
13. A man gets on the bus wearing full leather regalia and crotchless
chaps. You don't notice.
14. Unlike back home, the guy at 8:30am at Starbucks wearing the baseball cap
and sunglasses who looks like George Clooney really IS George Clooney.
15. Your car insurance costs as much as your house payment.
16. Your hairdresser is straight, your plumber is gay, the woman who delivers
your mail is into S & M, and your Mary Kay rep is a guy in drag.
17. You can't remember...is pot illegal?
18. Its barely sprinkling rain and there's a report on every news
station: "STORM WATCH 2003."
19. You have to leave the big company meeting early because Billy Blanks himself
is teaching the 4:00pm Tae Bo class.
20. You pass an elementary school playground and the children are all busy with
their cells or pagers.
21. It's barely sprinkling rain outside, so you leave for work an hour early to
avoid all the weather-related accidents.
22. Hey! Is Pot Illegal????
23. Both you AND your dog have therapists ..
24. The Terminator is your governor..