September means a few things to us all. To my parents, it’s an anniversary month. Others, it’s a birthday. For many of us, it’s a change of season. Fall is upon us, especially in New Jersey, bringing the tastes of pumpkin, Chai, and other spices along with it. We welcome hoodies, bonfires, leaves changing colors and falling, apple picking and pie baking.
On the New Jersey Shore, it also means fewer tourists. Not that we dislike tourists, but we dislike tourists. We love sharing our towns, our experiences, our beauty, and our business—yes, we might just love your money and support. However, for locals and commuters (like me), it is hard for us to share our weekends, our beaches, and our roads.
I have seen a meme recently, The best thing about living on the Jersey Shore is September. For me, I love the off-season beach. It means no crowds and no payment to get on the beach, because the weather cools down. Personally, I never feel cold on the beach in September and October or April and May. Those beach days are just as amazing to me as summer beach days. While the water is a little chilly, the sun still shines bright, the sand doesn’t burn my bare feet, and the sounds are exactly the same. I am no marine biologist, but birds still squawk and the waves still crash in the autumn and spring.
Summer is certainly beach-worthy, but winter? Don’t think I’m forgetting you! I’ve been known to sit at a beach or waterfront, wrapped in a comforter, in December.
I’m not talking about a Polar Plunge—though I’m so interested in doing one. I’m talking about me on a bench, wishing the local ice cream shops were still open. I’m talking about me watching the phases of the moon when I can’t sleep. I’m talking about 4 a.m. talks or stolen kisses with friends as the cold sea air hits our faces or (when we’re wiser) hits the car windows. The beach and the water aren’t exclusively for the summer.
Tourists beware: I’m not sure your skin is thick enough for winter beach times. I’ve lived within a mile from the beach for 28 years, and my skin is built for it. (If I am wrong with this theory, please don’t try to disprove it. I can’t handle yearlong beach traffic.)
The little shore town I grew up in and now work in rarely has traffic during the “off” season. My job is within two miles of my house. On a good day, it will take three-and-a-half minutes to get to work. During some points of the year, I breeze through five green traffic lights going to and from work. The worst case would be a five-minute drive because we all know: you hit one red light, you hit them all.
During the summer, that just isn’t the case. There are very few joys New Jersey Shore locals and commuters have during the summer. One is knowing the back roads to avoid traffic. Another is traveling North on the NJ Parkway when everyone is travelling South (toward the ocean) at the start of the weekend, and heading South when everyone is going North (that is, leaving the beach) at the end of the weekend.
I was not afforded those joys when commuting. Sure, I could take the back roads, but that increased my commute time just as sitting in traffic would. I was also going South to go home on a Friday or Saturday after work when everyone else was going…you got it! South.
I only had this joy when I’d travel to see my friends or family in North or West (Western?) Jersey. They’d never understand my sorrow when they asked me to make a “simple pit stop” that was “only” a little farther SOUTH than my job. They just didn’t seem to understand my traffic frustration. I understood why, though, as it seemed like most of them (and a lot of the human population) traveled at least thirty minutes to work. So, they assumed me sitting in fifteen minutes of traffic would be okay. They assumed this without realizing that fifteen minutes was triple my usual commute. TRIPLE.
My frustration would have been fine if my normal commute was thirty minutes, and I was mad about an added hour. Rationally, I know an added ten minutes is drastically different than an added sixty, but fractionally, it is the same. Triple is as triple does.
In the end, I started walking. I started walking so I could get free exercise, free fresh air, and freed from traffic jams.
Megan Andreuzzi is an animal lover and a traveler from the New Jersey Shore. She earned a degree from Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, USA in Liberal Studies with a dual concentration in writing and a minor in theater.