Story the first: The County Courthouse
The weirdness started the day we got married, when the cashier at the County Courthouse handed me a packet and said, "Here's everything you need to change your name."
"I'm not planning to change my name," I said.
"You do know you can't file joint income tax unless you have the same name, and it will cost you a lot more, don't you?" [Note: this is not a correct statement; I called the IRS to check.]
Cue foreboding music for the next two stories.
Story the second: the dentist
The next episode was a month or so later. My husband added me to his union insurance and made an appointment for me at his dentist. I went in, filled out the new patient information packet, and handed it to the receptionist.
A few minutes later, I heard muttering behind the counter.
"I thought this appointment was for Dale's wife?"
"Yes, that's what he said when he called."
"But her name is wrong!"
"Should we call Dale and tell them there's someone here pretending to be his wife?"
I stepped back up to the counter and explained, "Yes, I'm Dale's wife; we are married; I just didn't change my name."
And that's when the receptionist, bless her heart, looked up at me all wide-eyed and innocent and asked, "Is that LEGAL?"
Story the third: the glasses
A couple of years went by, and I needed new glasses, mine having broken at the nosepiece (I was wearing them taped together, like the good little nerd that I am!). The only optometrist in Knoxville that took his insurance was a little family shop out back of beyond.
In any case, I went, got my eyes checked, got a new scrip, chose frames, and waited. Two to four weeks, they said. Two weeks came and went, and I called the office to check. Nope, no glasses for Janet Miles.
Four weeks came and went, and I called the office to check. No glasses.
Six weeks. No glasses.
Eight weeks. No glasses.
Finally, I called and explained that I'd been waiting two and a half months for my new glasses, and could they please check on the status?
The receptionist said something like, "Actually, I have to contact the factory about some glasses that were never picked up, so I'll ask about yours again when I call."
Something in my brain went PING! "Is it possible," I asked, "that the glasses that haven't been picked up are for a Janet Beaver? I didn't change my name when I got married, but the insurance might have screwed it up."
"No," she said, "I don't have anything for a Janet B-- ... Wait. Are you 'Beaver, Dale, dependent of'?"
And that, my friends, is when I realized I was living in The South.
ETA: Argh. Okay, at the risk of creating more controversy: I'm going to apologize for that last sentence. It clearly comes across as a lot more derogatory in text than it sounded in my head, and I am sorry. The way it sounded in my head was closer to "And that's when I realized that the culture of the American South had some significant differences from the American Southwest, where I grew up." And a big part of that difference seems to be the emphasis on "who are your people".