how to spot a new jerseyan

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Humorous Bits, New Jersey
Tags: , , , , , ,

When we open our mouths we New Jerseyans can be pretty easy to spot. But not for reasons you may imagine. To risk sounding mildly defensive we’re not all like the bastardized versions of the New Jersey vox populi which graces America’s reality television landscape. Despite Jerseylicious, Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jersey Couture, Cake Boss, Jersey Shore and the occasional dip into Seaside Heights by MTV with one of their summer concoctions, most of us don’t tawk like dem. Sorry to report, but we basically sound like you. Unless you’re straight out of central casting for Steel Magnolias. Sure, you’ll hear an occasional nasally pronunciation or an accentuated syllable which screams, “Northeast in da house!” That can’t be helped. However, during a normal conversation about a normal topic under normal circumstances we blend right in like a white cow in a blizzard. Having just met us you’d be shocked to find out we hail from the land of The Sopranos.

All that changes when the topic shifts to driving. Our clever facade slides off as easily as Madonna’s bustier in the 80’s. It’s not as if the accent suddenly appears like an apparition of Jesus on a slice of toast in Santa Fe. No, not at all. Ask someone in Kansas about their commute and you’ll probably receive an answer like, “It’s about 10 miles.” Ask someone in Florida how long it takes to get from Tampa to Orlando and they’ll respond, “Normally about an hour or so.” Ask someone from Los Angeles about their weekend drive to Santa Monica and they’ll simply roll their eyes and look at you as if you derived sadistic pleasure from other people’s misery. In New Jersey it’s taken to a whole different level.

With us your first mistake is assuming a simple question like, “When can we expect you to arrive?” is, indeed, a simple question. You may have anticipated an answer like, “Oh, in about half an hour.” Ahhh grasshopper, you have much to learn! What you’ll get is more information than the CIA’s background check proffers about a new recruit. Not only will we tell you every potential route, we’ll go into minute detail about each possible hazard, roadblock and diversion. We’ll give exact times about how long each option will take. We’ll give you past experiences and whispered advice shared through years of experience. We become so thorough that even engineers throw their slide rules in the air disgusted by our level of detail.

“When can we expect you to arrive?” Indeed.

“As you know I usually come up Memorial Boulevard, even though at 7:10 on a dry Tuesday evening traffic could be worse than usual. If I catch all the lights, a tricky thing given those damn cops and their ticket quotas, I should get there in 27 minutes. But Jerry told me…you know Jerry Dowling, Cindy Wisnewski’s brother-in-law? Yeah, the guy with the god-awful rug. Anyway, he told me they’re doing construction on the intersection where they’re building the new Wawa. The one with the gas station. Yeah, I agree. A gas station there is way overdue.

“Anyway, the construction could easily add another 7 minutes, maybe even 8. Remember a few years ago when I got stuck behind that blue-hair and was 34 minutes late and missed the toast? Yeah, that sucked. And don’t forget, that was a Tuesday night too. Which means I should probably avoid Memorial altogether and come up 172. Yeah, it can be killer but with school out I won’t get stuck behind a bus like that time last fall when you had that going-away party for Tommy and Marie. And Joey Kaye from my bowling team was telling me they fixed that stoplight near Harrity’s Pub. You know the one. It used to switch every 20 seconds even when no cars were waiting. So it shouldn’t be a problem. Except if those damn kids near Mercer Avenue popped open the fire hydrant like a bunch of animals.

“Hold on. Paula’s yelling at me from the kitchen. What? (Pause) WHAT? (Pause) Oh. She’s saying I should avoid both Memorial and 172 and go right through that new development over by Boston Chicken. No, not the one on Winston. Didn’t they close that? Some sort of health violation, something about serving unprocessed chicken, whatever the hell that means. No, the one off Webster, near the Walgreens. Right. They are really crowded on Friday nights. Lines out the door. I guess they process their chicken. Haha. Anyway, she said there isn’t much traffic over there once I turn off Webster. I can then zigzag my way to Constitution Avenue and it’s a straight shot from there. Yeah, I know it adds an extra 3.3 miles to the drive, but it saves a lot of aggravation. Of course, if I bite the bullet and hop onto Route 1…”

Generally by the time we finish discussing and dissecting every combination we’ve burnt a good 30 minutes, 30 minutes which could’ve been spent on the road bringing us that much closer to our destination. Illogical? Yes. But that’s okay. New Jerseyans believe whatever we have to do to plot out the best possible route is totally worth the effort. And by best possible route we mean the one we think is best. God forbid we follow someone else’s suggestion and there’s even the most minor of delays.

The next time you find yourself in a crowd of strangers – whether it be at a business conference, vacationing on a tropical island or simply in an interrogation room with a posse of humorless federal agents – and you wonder if any of your new friends hail from New Jersey, don’t strain your ears trying to pick up the exaggerated accents you’ve heard from film and television. Simply toss out an innocuous comment about the traffic. Trust me, we won’t be able to restrain ourselves.

and you wonder why we’re so neurotic about driving

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