My wife Julie recently pointed out to me that she thinks I am much happier living in Gainesville than I did while I was in Jacksonville. I had noticed that I do feel happier, almost as if there’s been a Daniel awakening or something. I think I will probably mark down living in Jacksonville as a bad chapter in my life, and I definitely hope to never live there again. I decided to take a moment and spell out some of the reason I did not care for Jacksonville. Perhaps I can look back on this later if I ever forget and consider living there again.
I am not sure exactly why, but in general, I did not find most people in Jacksonville particularly friendly. I can’t point to specific qualities; I am just basing this statement on the people I’ve been around elsewhere in Florida. Despite Jacksonville being touted as this big Christian city (some might argue because of), the people in Jacksonville just seemed generally unhappy and impatient. Perhaps this had something to do with the recession; I do not know.
Bad Drivers, Bad Walkers
I could almost sum this section up by say that I saved over $100 a year in car insurance by moving away from Jacksonville. Driving in Jacksonville is definitely an experience. Here are some rules to keep in mind when driving in Jacksonville:
(1) First rule you need to keep in mind is that if you have somewhere to go in Jacksonville, you need to know exactly where it is and exactly which lanes you need to be in, because Jacksonville drivers will show you no mercy. If you need to change lanes to make an unexpected turn, you better just go for it, because if you turn on your turn signal hoping someone will let you in, you should expect that they’ll just speed up specifically to block you.
(2) If you are like me and rarely speed (I can’t say I never speed), you will never be comfortable in Jacksonville. Unless you’re like all the other drives and going 15 MPH over the speed limit, you should expect that the other drivers are going to be tailgating and flashing lights at you.
(3) Turning on your headlights at night and during the rain is apparently optional in Jacksonville.
(4) What are turn signals?
(5) In Jacksonville, it is apparently okay to pretend a red light is still yellow up to 3 seconds after a light has turned red. Yellow, of course, means to speed up.
(6) You need to be very alert and be ready to slam on breaks at a moment’s notice. I used to think Pensacola had a bad problem of people pulling out in front of me, but Jacksonville is way WAY worse. Driving to work took about 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back. I do not think there was a single trip where I didn’t have to slam on breaks at least 5 times for people pulling out in front of me or coming into my lane without looking. Then again, why should they look? In Florida, if someone pulls out in front of you, and you hit them, you get charged with the accident. It made me a very anxious driver, and I am still recovering.
(7) Pedestrians do not care about oncoming traffic or crossing signals. I have had to slam on breaks a few times for pedestrians as well, because they really can’t care who has a green light or what their crossing signal says. Also, Jacksonville has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country, but actually it has one of the lowest pedestrian fatality rates in Florida (article). On the other hand, as someone who had to cross a 6 lane road frequently, I will tell you that if I were elderly, deaf, or disabled in some way, there would have been no possible way I could have crossed in the time allotted by the crossing signals.
(8) Bicyclists are nuts. They use the sidewalk, and they’re not supposed to. They ride against traffic, and they’re not supposed to. They run red lights, and they’re not supposed to. They generally pretend that they are pedestrians, and they’re not. They ride in the dark, and they don’t wear proper reflective clothing. However, all of this is pretty common everywhere.
Needless to say, seeing balls of vehicle rubble flipped over on my way to and from work was not all that uncommon.
JEA (Water and Electric)
Electricity rates in Jacksonville are through the roof. This is supposed to be caused by Jacksonville being powered by natural gas steam rather than coal. Still, it never ceased to amaze me how high our power bill was with our little 2 bedroom apartment with the air set to 78°F.
High power bills were a pain, but the water was much worse. The tap water in Jacksonville is just plain undrinkable. It tastes like liquid death, and Brita doesn’t help. For the longest time, even the cats refused to drink it. Even after boiling it, it still has a horrible taste, meaning you can’t really cook with it either. Jacksonville prides itself with having the 10th worst water among 100 big cities according to source. We always had to lug bottles to the grocery store every week to use the reverse osmosis filter. This saved money compared to buying bottled water, but it was very inconvenient having tap water I could not drink or cook. Heck, I really didn’t even feel comfortable bathing in it. It leaves stains! I received some of the highest water bills I’d ever seen, all while the St. John’s River reeked of dying fish (article).
(article and article)
Jacksonville has the highest crime rates in Florida, including the highest murder rate. I never really felt all that safe while living there. Feeling safe and being safe are both important.
JSO (Freaking scary pigs)
If you find yourself in a scary situation with one of Jacksonville’s many criminals, it might not be right to feel better when the cops show up, but the cops in Jacksonville are pretty freaking scary too. I mean, I am not sure the cops are very different from the criminals, and I am not just saying that because my wife worked for the public defender. My personal experience with them is that they like to speed. There were several occasions when I’m driving along at a cop would fly by me going 15+ over the speed limit. If they can’t get around me, they resort to the same Jacksonville tactics of tailgating. I particularly remember the incident discussed in this article. This article discusses an hostage incident, where a bank robber carjacked a vehicle with a woman, a 7 year old girl, and a 2 year old boy. This further show just how little a clue these cops have. Faced with this hostage situation, the cops proceeded to unload 42 rounds at the vehicle. The suspect was killed, the boy was taken to the hospital in critical condition, and the woman was shot as well. Freaking scary cops! It even speaks less of Jacksonville citizens that so many of them actually defended the JSO in this incident.
A little disclaimer… I was pretty distrusting of cops to begin with.
So, I do want to point out some positives about Jacksonville… Well, there are jobs. Jacksonville is a very corporate kind of city, so if you like the cut-throat world that is corporate, Jacksonville is a great place to work, but it is very competitive. Lots of places to shop in Jacksonville, although much was out of my price range or desire. Another positive is the Hanabi Sushi and Bar on Beach Blvd and St. Johns Bluff Rd. I had some of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten here, and I am still looking for a comparable replacement here in Gainesville. Hmm… well… we also met a few awesome people in Jacksonville, like Jeff, Genevieve, Anshul, and Jun.
There are other things about Jacksonville I could point out. Like, if I tried to raise a child in Jacksonville, where would they go to school? I couldn’t imagine putting them into the Duval county school system, so I suppose I’d have to put them into some private school. Anyway, is my assessment of Jacksonville too harsh? I know others who’ve liked living in Jacksonville. Maybe I just didn’t enjoy my time there.
Leaving on a lighter note, talking about Jacksonville drivers reminds me of an old Goofy cartoon, which I will share with you now (video).