What he did answer, politely, was, "I know that's right."
I proceeded to the public library. The face of the quite helpful research librarian was decorated by what I took to be tribal tattoos. Turned out she was from Namibia.
So if I were you, I wouldn't try to fit into Atlanta culture by addressing everyone as y'all. For one thing, you might have read a recent how-to-get-by-in-Atlanta article in which it was alleged that y'all is singular, and the plural is y'alls. This is sheer misinformation. Here is a rare opportunity to be definitive about a vaguely Atlanta-related point, and I am not going to let it get away: Y'all is always plural, although sometimes it may sound singular. For instance, someone may ask a waitress, "What kind of pie y'all got?" That y'all refers to the restaurant, as a collection of people. To be sure, there is such a word as y'all's: the plural possessive, as in, "Y'all's little boy sure is cute," addressed to a couple. Oh, don't worry about it. If you didn't grow up using y'all, stay away from it.
Also, I wouldn't go around asking local people what grits are, or is. To someone who grew up eating grits, that's as engaging an icebreaker as "What are potatoes?" would be to an Irishman.
Chicago is the city of big shoulders, Pittsburgh is a shot-and-a-beer town, Los Angeles has no more personality than a paper cup—what's the word on Atlanta?
In the beginning Atlanta was without form, and void. It still is.
Void? Like empty void?
Well, I'm taking a bit of Biblical license. But what more appropriate place to quote the Bible and to take license than Atlanta? Michael Musto, gossip columnist for New York's Village Voice, once wrote after a visit to Atlanta, "The entire city stops dead on Sundays for—get this—church." This overstates the case considerably, but if you ask an Atlantan what he thinks of, say, Deion Sanders, he may reply, "My mama and Deion go to the same church. And Deion's right regular."
There are more houses of worship in Atlanta, in fact, than there are table-dancing establishments. Which is saying something, for Atlanta is the table-dancing-establishment capital of, at least, the Southeast. When a big churchgoing town is also a mecca for the kind of guy who likes to show what a class act he is by not laying a hand on a succession of chipper if unsultry young women whom he is paying to gyrate stark naked at his table, within an inch of his nose—well, void may be a bit strong. But a connection missing somewhere is not.
What might be this connection that's missing?