My New Normal

This August, I will celebrate my two-year anniversary of living in New Orleans, Louisiana. It seems like a lifetime ago when I first stepped foot in this Crescent City, wandering its broken streets with feelings of both confusion and intrigue.

My first impression of New Orleans in 2010 left me describing the city with words like “contradictory,” “interesting” and “unique.” Three years later, my perspective on this description has changed only slightly. But, I have learned more about New Orleans during that time. I have swam through the contradictories and lived among the city’s many unique qualities. I have assimilated into the New Orleans culture in a way that has taught me a new perspective on what the word “normal” could mean.

For better or worse, the following list summaries 50 occurrences that two years of living in New Orleans has transformed into my new “normal”:

  1. Exiting my front door at 8:15 every morning and exchanging waves with the homeless men who sit on the abandoned house steps across the street. They smile and say “good morning!” while lifting their beers in my direction, as I click-clack to my car in wedges and dress pants.
  2. Hearing New Orleans natives talk about how they “make groceries” instead of “buy groceries” and “make 18” rather than “turn 18.”
  3. Restaurants that are cash only.
  4. Believing people who drive the streets in straight lines at night are usually drunk, while those who swerve are sober. The sober drivers usually know enough to avoid all the potholes.
  5. Drinking coffee on a cafe patio while watching a man walk his tortoise around the neighborhood block.
  6. The word “y’all.”
  7. Costumes. Year-round.
  8. People who walk around the French Quarter with parrots on their shoulders.
  9. Passing an elderly man riding his bike at 7:30am with a Carnival-costumed Chihuahua in the front basket.
  10. Boiled water advisories.
  11. Summer being time for indoor play, while winter means time for outdoor play.
  12. Pinpointing tourists through Mardi Gras beads. Most locals don’t wear them as jewelry.
  13. Watching an obese man drive his four-wheeler alongside traffic on a main city highway.
  14. Drunk or stoned cab drivers.
  15. Festivals for all occasions, including festivals to celebrate festivals.
  16. Hibernating during the summer months, which includes staying indoors behind dropped blinds, closed shutters and 24/7 air conditioning.
  17. Wearing sunglasses during a thunderstorm, because I genuinely need them – not because I’m one of those people who wears sunglasses during thunderstorms.
  18. Assuming the car in front of me with no turn signal will continue in any direction (forward, left, right or backward) without warning at the next intersection.
  19. Hearing thunder all day, but never seeing rain.
  20. Having two seasons: bearable and unbearable.
  21. Watching at least five unfinished construction projects not being worked on at any one time. And, not being surprised when another project begins before I see one complete.
  22. Bars that never close. Ever.
  23. Recognizing that “safe” areas of New Orleans are measured block to block, rather than neighborhood to neighborhood.
  24. Being called pet names (baby, hun, girl, sweetheart) by strangers of all races, genders and sizes.
  25. Having few options for food delivery besides pizza.
  26. Feeling sweat drip down my face from walking the distance of my front door to driveway at 5:30am.
  27. Stumbling upon a parade of street clothes and brass instruments dancing through the streets on any given day for no apparent reason.
  28. Using heat, air conditioning, sunglasses and an umbrella all in the same day.
  29. Cringing at the thought of wearing jeans in the summer.
  30. Being surrounded by people who rarely think about the future – be it that they don’t care, don’t want to, or don’t believe it will exist.
  31. Alcohol being served at all events, including to parents at elementary school Christmas plays.
  32. Oak trees.
  33. Passing a fire hydrant that’s spewing water into a flooded street only to find that no one has attended to the situation when I drive past again four hours later.
  34. Tripping on sidewalks, because most of them are uneven.
  35. Waiting 15-20 minutes every time I need to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy, regardless of how many customers are in line.
  36. Watching Ugg boots walk the city when the temperature drops to 80 degrees.
  37. Seeing as many stray cats as I saw in Istanbul, Turkey.
  38. Upside down stop signs.
  39. Mardi Gras beads accessorizing the city year-round on lamp posts, phone wires and tree branches.
  40. Never walking outside after dark.
  41. Noticing potholes only because civilians kindly alert fellow drivers by placing any available object inside the craters (i.e. construction cones, garbage cans, flower pots…any available object).
  42. Expecting a 15-minute thunderstorm will flood the streets, knock down branches, shut off power and and/or cut off the Internet.
  43. Store clerks scanning merchandise at half the speed of what I’m used to in Northern cities.
  44. Drive-through daiquiri shops.
  45. Porches. Lots and lots of porches.
  46. Resolving to make my block a two-way street and knowing it’s unlikely I will ever get pulled over for making and abiding by this illegal decision.
  47. Not paying parking meters after 4:00pm even though the cutoff time is 6:00pm, because I believe most of New Orleans professionals have lost interest in their jobs by 4:00pm anyway (For the record, I have never been ticketed after 4:00pm).
  48. Bugs. And, among my favorite: mosquitos, cockroaches and red ants.
  49. To-go cups for alcoholic beverages.
  50. Strangers who ask a series of personal questions simply because they are curious, not because they need anything in return.

What I have learned most of all is that New Orleans is a place where the ability to avoid frustration correlates with an ability to go with the flow. The city will undoubtedly work against each of us in some way at some time, but the New Orleans response will undoubtedly be: laissez ls bons temps rouler! Let the good times roll.

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