We from New Jersey always wonder why we’ve got such a bad rep outside of our lovely home state. Today I was reminded that it only takes one to ruin it for the rest of us.
I’m down the shore for a couple of weeks, working and relaxing. Earlier I was over at one of our property owners’ pools, just trying to relax before the new wave of vacationing touristas checked in and loosed their screaming hordes of children on our otherwise quiet little community. Because of past damage done by that screaming horde we now have pool monitors at each of our pools, ostensibly to make sure only property owners and their guests use the facility, renters go to the renters’ facilities, and no vandalism occurs. These pool monitors are residents, usually retired folks or their spouses. For 8 bucks an hour they sit and sweat in the sun from June to September and try to control other people’s children, who for some reason think that just because they’re on vacation they can do whatever they want (I’m talking about the parents, not the kids). The pool monitor this morning was an extremely nice guy named Bob (names have been changed protect the unknowing).
Bob is by nature a very gregarious guy, and he introduces himself this way… “Hi, I’m Bob, nice to see you. I’m a head trauma survivor and I have a speech impediment, I’m not drunk or anything.” Bob says this because he barely survived a car crash with a drunken driver when he was 21, and if you didn’t know about his injuries you’d swear he was drunk because of how he speaks. And right after his introduction Bob starts asking questions – where are you from, how long you staying, don’t you like our weather, pretty much anything to start a conversation.
There were a lot of early birds around the pool this morning, and one of the corner tables was taken by some renters. It’s easy to tell the renters from the residents – the renters haul in a 30 gallon cooler full of 2 or 3 days worth of drinks and food, baskets full of newly purchased pool toys for their kids, and even this late in the season they’re usually pasty white from not having been out in the sun since last year’s vacation. Along with the cooler they carry a beach bag containing a couple iPods, 4 cameras, at least one phone each, 12 magazines, 3 books, 4 drink coozies, a 2 gallon bottle of SPF 50 sun screen, some bug spray, and a couple of those god awful “sun hats” they sell in the souvenir stores. I’ve seen them take 2 or 3 trips back and forth to the car to get it all. Residents come with a bottle of water, a baggie with a sandwich or some fruit, a book, a towel, and a 4 oz tube of Coppertone, SPF15.
As the 4 parents were starting to unpack Bob walked over to help them with setting up the table umbrella. As he usually does he introduced himself and asked where they were from. When they answered “New Jersey, about 45 minutes from Philly airport” Bob perked up. Bob’s from close to the same area, just on the PA side of the state line. A seemingly warm conversation struck up as they zeroed in on places they all knew or had spent time. At one point Bob said something one of the guys didn’t understand and he looked at Bob and said “what’dusay?” Bob repeated his answer a little more slowly, taking care to speak as clearly as he could. He then started to explain about his speech problem again, and as he started to say “I’m a head trauma survivor..” the guy who asked turned to the others and loudly asked “So waddawe got, two packs of hot dogs for supper? Am I cooking two packs or what?” He continued to talk about buns, onions, condiments, whatever he could to deliberately ignore and dismiss Bob. It was 11 am by the way, and their lunch was safely packed away in their 30 gallon cooler under the table.
Bob has a speech problem, he’s not impaired. Besides, you’d have to be dead not to recognize how crass that was. Still, Bob excused himself, telling the dickhead that if they needed any help or information on local restaurants or whatever they should just ask him, he’d be there til 3. He then continued on around the pool, straightening the deck furniture til he got around to the stairs into the pool. Bob got in the pool acting like nothing happened while I stood not far from him in the water just pissed as hell at how rude that was. And I was thinking that THIS is why people from Jersey get such a bad rap, because of guys like that one. Yeah, as a group we’re loud, we’re crude, we’re judgmental, aloof, arrogant, and pushy. I’ve been married to a southern woman for 25 years and my in-laws will still only admit to being “used to him”. I recognize, embrace, and try to smooth my rough edges, but I earned them in the Garden State and they can only be polished so much. But I’m not and I don’t know many of us who are so deliberately rude and belittling. Unfortunately, everyone else that was around that pool this morning went home thinking that people from New Jersey are nothing but rude obnoxious jerks. Between guys like this, and the trash that is “Jersey Shore” what are they supposed to think.
BTW, lest you think I was eavesdropping – the pool area isn’t that big and everyone there heard and saw the entire incident. And Bob? Bob and I were in the pool, and as he walked past me he glanced at me and said “do you believe that asshole?”. He said it quietly, but I noticed the elderly women sitting 2 tables down from the cafone (Urban Dictionary, def #1) burst out laughing. So did I.