Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Great Divide

Map credit (and laughs) to Joe Steinfeld
Oh New Jersey. How can one small state have so many different areas? This map was all the rage a couple months ago and it got me thinking about the great divide. I never knew how different North and South Jersey were until I went to college (what's up Marist!). And that's where it all began...

[Side-note: this is just an observation post. Please don't think I'm belittling any part of New Jersey, I'm just putting out there what I experienced while I was in college. I have a many great friends and work colleagues from different parts of the state, and I realize I'm making sweeping generalizations in this post. So everyone just calm down and have a open mind while reading this.]

I live in a small town in South Jersey. Smaller then small. People know more about me then I know about myself. And I likely don't even know who they are but they come up to me anyway and tell me things I didn't even know were public information. I'm getting out I swear, I told everyone and off to college I went, 180 miles away to Poughkeepsie, New York.

The question I got most once I arrived was 'what exit are you off the Parkway'? The first time I got that question I was a deer in headlights. I'm not off the Parkway, how do I respond?! MY ENTIRE COLLEGE CAREER DEPENDS ON THIS ANSWER! Or so I my mind screamed at me. So I'd start explaining how I'm not technically off the Parkway, but do take that to exit ___ then have to take the NJ Turnpike south to exit 7 and then have to take 206 all the way down and then I'm home. [Another side-note, I no longer take the Parkway when traveling to NY to see family/friends. 287 is a much preferred route after months of a long distance relationship. But I digress and that's for another post.]

So I learned to shorten my answer. I explained I'm not off the Parkway I was halfway between Philly and Atlantic City  but even that was too confusing to people. So when teachers made us do the awkward introductions in the beginning of every class every semester I just started  telling everyone I was from Atlantic City because that was the only landmark they knew down here.

Everyone from North Jersey talks about going to the city. The 'city' to me was Philadelphia. But in North Jersey 'the city' is New York City. NYC was only an hour and a half train ride on Metro North while I was in college, but I always equated hearing 'want to go to the city?' to Philadelphia. [Sidebar #3 - if you like any other cheese steak place then Pat's King of Steaks you are dead to me.]  And I had to explain to North Jersey-ians that for me to get to NYC from home it's over 4 hours of travel time there and back, so I don't frequent it from good old So Jo [Sidebar #4 - technically I did frequent NYC with my family once a year, but that's for another post and again, I'm digressing!].

The other weird thing is that everyone from North Jersey goes by counties they are from. Conversations would go "Where are you from?" "I'm from Monmouth County" or "I'm from Bergen county". I'm sorry, I'm not from a county. I'm from a town. That just happens to be located in the county of Atlantic. Just saying. My response was "I'm from Hammonton". Blank stare. "It's in South Jersey, don't worry about it."

And people from North Jersey seem to have much more pride in the state then I do. I mean, Jersey is cool and all. We've got Springsteen. And beaches. And the Jersey Devil. I'll never forget when I was in a communications class and someone started ripping on Jersey, a classmate legitimacy freaked out about New Jersey being better then New York. I turned to him and said 'dude its government land, not like you own the state.' Let's calm down people. New Jersey is all well and good, but so are other states. You can argue that Vermont is great because they have amazing ski resorts (so I'm told) or Delaware is amazing because they have no sales tax. It's all what you make it people.

One thing seriously lacking in North Jersey (and New York, for that matter) is Wawa. Wawa doesn't go past much of Central Jersey and there were none located in New York. There are literally two Wawa's within a mile radius of my condo. Go anywhere in South Jersey and you won't have to go far to find a Wawa. Food, coffee and snacks galore, not to mention great gas prices. Wawa is just another reason to love South Jersey. You truly don't get it until you've visited a Wawa.

The most hilarious to me is when I had a friend of mine from Long Island visit me (not North Jersey I know but stick with me). As we were driving down from Marist, we finally got off the Turnpike to Route 206. Now, anyone who drives 206 down to Hammonton knows that it is in the Pinelands. Pinelands = trees galore. And the Jersey Devil. He literally started questioning where we were headed and was convinced I was taking him into the woods to murder him as we were driving down 206. He was becoming physically uncomfortable with the forest we were driving through. Pinelands forest is nothing out of the ordinary, I explained, I grew up with the Jersey Devil. Even my colleagues from North Jersey comment about the 'back woods' they have to drive through just to get to our agency. I never realized how the stories surrounding the Pinelands freak people out. Not to worry though, the Jersey Devil and I are BFF's.

So I'm down here in South Jersey somewhere between "Pineys, Pineys Everywhere" and "Ghetto In the Woods". Although I fit into neither of these classifications as I'm more of the book-nerd-in-the-small-Italian-town-girl. And still trying (extremely unsuccessfully) to get out.

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