I am really tired of seeing lists of “facts” about New Jersey featuring the same reused tropes and stereotypes. If you’ve come here seeking an affirmative nod that the ‘Taylor Ham, Egg, and Cheese’ is the best breakfast sandwich on Earth (okay, it is) or to hear about how we “pump our fists, not our gas,” you have come to the wrong place.
Behold, ten facts you have not already seen regurgitated about New Jersey:
- Seven-to-eight months out of the year, our roads are riddled with potholes. Yes, here in the great state of New Jersey, we have precisely the right amount of winter weather conditions, population density, and political and economic corruption to produce the most hole-ridden terrain you have ever seen! If car companies really want to know that their products are built to last or like a rock, don’t take them off-roading — put them on a residential road in Bergen or Morris County. We’ll show those tires!
- Most people here have really nice teeth. Like, really nice. We have this culture in which we throw our unsullied young into the hands of orthodontists upon the first appearance of adult teeth. It’s a bit like how in 300, the eight-year-olds are sent into the woods alone to kill their first creature and prove their manhood. Well, here in New Jersey, we’re indoctrinated into adulthood by allowing some guy to stick his hands in our mouths and cast molds around our teeth. It’s like being barmitzvah’ed. “You’re a man, now; go off into the world and represent the wealth of your clan with your shining teeth.”
- Nobody cares one lick about NASCAR. Seriously, I think I’ve encountered one person in my entire New Jersey residency who had any remote interest in NASCAR, and that was like three weeks ago. People here like classic cars, sports cars, expensive cars, and even racing illegally on highways in Connecticut, but not NASCAR.
- Despite popular belief, not all of our shore towns are “turnt up.” Yeah, I just said ‘turnt up,’ get over it. We have about fifty or sixty different coastal towns and each has something distinct about it. Some spots are really historic, such as Bay Head and Cape May, while some are family-oriented, like Point Pleasant and Long Beach Island (LBI), for example. We also have Atlantic City for some solid restaurants and late-night gambling trips, and spots like Seaside Heights where there is a boardwalk and an accompanying town full of restaurants and bars for all of the twenty-somethings in need of escape. Areas like Spring Lake are so serene and quiet that one would not even know they existed if it weren’t for the signs. The towns are very diverse, territorially, aesthetically, and culturally.
- There are a ton of cute walking towns within a short distance from any location. Morristown is a spot where George Washington lodged one winter during the Revolutionary War. The “Green” in the center of town — a town which is a bit like a small city — even houses a few statues of some Revolutionaries. The area also houses a number of “mom and pop” shops, eateries, galleries, and bars, as well as a small theater and a movie theater. There are multiple races each year, including a locally famous one on St. Paddy’s Day, which precedes the annual parade.
However, there are also many other enjoyable towns worth visiting, like New Brunswick, Red Bank, a million of the shore towns, and even the small cities, such as Hoboken and Jersey City. In other words, there is always somewhere to go.
- It’s really difficult to place a “typical” New Jersey accent. For as small of a state as we are, we encompass many cultures, which have guided our state accents in a number of directions. This stems from the earliest residents of the Northeast, followed by the Ellis Island immigrants and the abundant northward traveling free men and women. After establishing cities, like in most areas, suburbs followed and the cultures collided. Generally, the accents above the Driscoll Bridge are influenced by New York City and the accents below by Philadelphia. It is the easiest way to categorize them, but in reality, language is much more nuanced than this. For instance, my mother says the word ‘wash’ with the following accent: warsh. Where did she find that excessive letter ‘r,’ you ask? Well, she’s from Newark, and they don’t have to make sense there.
- We were really hit hard by 9/11. Before you say, “Yeah, the whole country was,” let me put this into perspective: I could see the smoke from my backyard. Each year, when they light the Freedom Tower on the anniversary, I see that, too. My own father volunteered at Ground Zero for months, and on the evening of the tragic event, he did not arrive home until after 11PM. I won’t get into the nitty gritty, but the point is, my story is only one story. I know people personally who have lost relatives and friends. Many of these losses were our people, and people around here take September 11th very seriously. I don’t think any subject is immune to a bit of humor, but I would tread lightly with my words, especially in North Jersey, where some would probably crash their car into yours just to make a point.
- Speaking of car crashes, the road rage is intense. A couple of months ago, I was driving to work and had to stop in the middle of the road because there were two cars in front of me — one blocking each lane. One of those lanes was for traffic in the other direction, but this is irrelevant. My windows were shut, but I thought I could hear animated talking. At that point, I was uncertain if these two drivers were just friends who happened to not mind inconveniencing other drivers for a quick conversation, or what, but I patiently waited.
About thirty seconds later, the sedan in my lane began driving, and the pickup in the left moved in front of me, speeding up to just behind the sedan. He began honking, and the sedan stopped again. The guy in the pickup proceeded to exit his vehicle and approach the other guy’s window. He started banging on the window — now, at this point, we were near an intersection and I had rolled my windows down to hear — and shouting, “You motherfucker. You almost fucking killed me! You’re lucky I don’t beat the shit out of you…” This continued for some time, and then the guy finally got back in his truck and drove away.
The most shocking part was that the other driver just sat there and took it. Moral of the story? Well, evidently it’s that some motorists fight for responsible driving.
- We have the most drastic weather changes of any place I’ve ever been. I recall a week during high school where one day it was 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the next day it was snowing. We never know when winter is coming because winter is like your black sheep of an uncle who likes to show up in the dead of night to sabotage your mental health.
- Patience is hard to come by, but the passion is strong. I’ve heard the Chinese are also an impatient people. And the Germans, for that matter. Regardless, people in the New York Metropolitan Area don’t wait for nobody. That’s grammatically correct, and don’t try to tell anybody no different. Anyway, you know how people wait in lines overnight for the iPhone and on Black Friday? Well, I know people who have hired people to wait in line for them because they don’t have the patience for that nonsense.
I don’t have the patience for that either, but that’s because I don’t make poor life choices like the rest of those people. Seriously, though, who wants to do that? Unless there is an outdoor coffee shop that I can access every hour, on the hour, I will not wait in line — I don’t care if it’s to see the Pope, or Betty White, I won’t do it. Betty wouldn’t make us do that, anyway.
That said, New Jerseyans (Jerseyites?) are an impassioned people, ready to love as strong as they crusade, work out as much as they eat their feelings (and we do), and listen as long as you don’t piss them off.
Seriously, though, you should come here some time.