Growing up in Bergen County, I thought life unfurled at a model, comfortable pace. That’s what happens when you’re little, right? Your family has a particular rhythm, a certain cadence that dictates how the days move. And since you don’t know anything else, you just go with it. Maybe the process of growing and maturing has something to do with it, but I remember being thankful that my life didn’t move too swiftly.
When I visited relatives in New York City, I saw the hustle and bustle of those hyper, insane City people. Everything with them was fast. They even talked fast. Growing up, I swore that my father, who grew up in the Bronx, spoke a foreign language. It was only years later that I realized he was just speaking English at an unintelligible speed. Anyway, life in New York was always rush, rush, rush. I never saw people just kicking back and enjoying themselves. Those were times when I was thankful that Bergen County was slower.
When I moved to Essex, life seemed a smidge more sluggish – but in a good way. As I got off Route 46 for Montclair, I could tangibly feel the air cooling down and the pace became even more unhurried. Somehow the drivers here were just a bit slower, the people a hair friendlier. There weren’t as many malls to incite people to shopping frenzy. Or maybe it was the fact that there were fewer former New Yorkers in Essex, but I saw that a pace different from Bergen County and New York existed and I liked it. I liked life going just a smidge less hurried than I was used to. The same went for my experiences traveling to Southern Jersey. There was an “ahhhhh” factor that seemed to accompany forages down the Parkway or out Routes 78 and 80.
When I married a die-hard Penn State graduate (my hubby bleeds Penn State blue and white), I became a frequent visitor to State College, PA where I associated open spaces with openness in people. Subsequently, when I traveled around the country and to foreign lands (England, Italy, France, Singapore), I appreciated the difference in the intonation of life in those places. People went about earning a living, buying food, going to school, etc., but they didn’t seem as hasty in their movements and speech as we do in Northern New Jersey. “Slow” became a synonym for “less stress” and “more relaxing” as it relates to the general pace of life and most of the Type A personalities I knew. It was a positive thing. I couldn’t imagine anywhere being too slow. Then I went to Jamaica.
Now I’m quite aware that my experiences with the locals were extremely limited to those at my family-friendly resort. But I think everyone who visits Jamaica realizes that the pace is S-L-O-W. I don’t know if one can attribute it to the hot weather, being surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, or both, but Jamaica has the most deliberately leisurely pace I’ve ever seen. It makes the pace in the southern part of the US seem frenetic.
While slowing life down is good because it helps you to relax, it drove me bonkers when it came to getting service. I learned that “in a minute” meant at least 30, “right away” meant “whenever I get to it, Mon”, and that “fast food” meant five people doing nothing in the kitchen so that it took 25 minutes to get a burger at Wendy’s (the one at the airport in Montego Bay). Granted, these phrases were said warmly and with the most gracious of smiles. These were not people who meant to thwart me. They just were not in a rush and nothing I could say or do would get them to move any faster. In fact, the only people who seemed motivated were: 1) vendors looking to sell goods or services when at tourist attractions 2) people looking to sell me drugs when I swam in the ocean. In both cases, a simple “no thank you” lead to a gracious backing off of their offers with a smile and a “No problem, Mon,” reply.
Again, I rarely found the people I interacted with in Jamaica unpleasant. For the most part, they were extremely warm and friendly. They seemed to have the biggest hearts when it came to interacting with children and they were the ultimate hosts when it came to sharing their island. I had strangers stopping, out of the kindness of their hearts, to tell me about the bird I was looking at or the plant I was admiring. They went out of their way to stop me from touching a harmful sea creature and couldn’t help me enough when I asked for assistance. But you had to ask if you wanted something – offering didn’t seem to be on their agenda.
So I learned that my model pace is not the same as that of the people in Jamaica. While I embrace relaxing some of the hurriedness of life, a pace too slow fries the patience of this New Jersey woman. And it makes me thankful that I live where I live because, most of the time, it’s just right for me.
This is an original post to JerseyMomsBlog by momscrayon.