Newcomers

Visit Mobile introduces a new column that we hope will provide a fun, interesting and refreshing look at how folks new to Mobile learn about and experience our town.  Courtney  will provide insights, impressions, suggestions and musings on things she discovers along her journey to becoming a Mobilian.  She moved here in February and began writing for us just this month!

Mobile Lessons: What I’ve Learned as a Newcomer

1) Mobile has wild weather.

On February 23, 2016, my husband Tom and I moved from Atlanta to Mobile, and we received a wild weather welcome in the form of a TORCON 8, which I now know is not that unusual around here. On weather.com I learned that the TORCON index ranges from 0 to 10. And if I multiply the TORCON value by 10, I get the percentage chance of a tornado within 50 miles of my location, and I could expect a severe thunderstorm to contain ping pong size hail, 60 mph wind gusts, and widespread flash flooding, which did not seem to faze anyone except us. Since moving here, I’ve been told dozens of times to expect anything from the weather, and experiencing all four seasons in a day is not unheard of. People pack for everything Mother Nature can bring. I’ve spotted purses, backpacks, strollers, and vehicles with rain jackets, windbreakers, sweaters, flip flops, galoshes, etc. in them. Now that’s smart planning!

2) Mobilians have to know where you stand on the Alabama – Auburn issue.

The first thing everyone asks us is what would seem a relatively simple question, “Alabama or Auburn?” How one answers this shapes future relationships. Tread lightly because the reply hinges on how you want to interact with that person forever. There will be back slapping and high fives for the rest of your life or there will be endless disagreements on and constant defending of your choice. Thankfully, my allegiance is clearly defined since my parents went to graduate school at Alabama. My husband, on the other hand, is a Georgia Southern graduate with no preference for the Tide or Tigers, so when asked, he just defers to “My wife likes Alabama, so…” That is greeted with a nod of understanding, and the standard, “Happy wife, happy life” response.

3) Mobilians carry koozies, and it’s the right thing to do.

One of the most important items a Mobilian possesses is a koozie, which I had to look up online to learn how to spell correctly. At first I thought a koozie was a frivolous accessory. Oh, no! I soon found out that a koozie is an absolute Mobilian necessity like a windbreaker or galoshes. You whip them out at Callaghan’s (where I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and partied like it was 1999) and during the LoDa Art Walk (where I dance/marched in my first Second Line parade and experienced my first food trucks). I’ve seen koozies on back decks and boat docks. Whether you carry a monogrammed Lilly Pulitzer print koozie in your purse or a camouflaged Bass Pro koozie in your back pocket, if you live in Mobile, you’re carrying a koozie. They are also a great way to declare your Alabama – Auburn stance.

4) Mobile traffic is no better than Atlanta traffic. It’s just different.

After people ask us what school we support, their next question is always about the Atlanta traffic. “How could you stand it? I bet you’re so happy now”. Well, honestly, it isn’t much better here. Really. It takes 25-40 minutes to go just about anywhere in or around this city, which isn’t a lot of time except when you consider the distance traveled. Twenty-five minutes could be five miles on Airport on Friday afternoon or three miles on Cody on the way to The Grounds on a Saturday morning. With so many 35 mph roads, frontage roads, and really narrow lanes on roads like Government, it’s no wonder that traffic can be a beast here, too.

I hold my breath when I drive by the giant live oaks draped with Mardi Gras beads, because I know I’m passing decades and decades of history and don’t even want to disturb the Spanish moss dripping over the roadway. It’s a wonder I don’t pass out from holding my breath for so long. It’s the same scenario on the way to Dauphin Island, where the beautiful water views, strong winds, the threat of a rogue wave, and a pelican careening towards my windshield all take my breath away. I just need to learn how to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Ironically, Mobile’s traffic is what brought us here. Tom is the Lead Roadway Designer for the Mobile River Bridge project (I-10) that’s been in the news a lot lately. This project has been discussed for a long time, and when folks meet Tom and hear that he’s here to actually do something about this bridge situation, well, it gets tongues wagging about how this bridge is going to make the traffic situation so much better. And that’s a good thing for all of us.

5) Mobile is filled with wonderful, unusual sights and experiences.

I thought I’d be homesick, but I’m too busy learning about and loving this city! The great thing about moving to Mobile is all the new things we’re seeing and experiencing – many of them for first time. Neither of us have ever lived anywhere where we seagulls flew overhead or palm trees rattled in the breeze or huge turtles crossed the road. The most unfamiliar oddity we’ve spotted around town has been armadillos (sadly only seen as road kill).

We’ve also had our first crawfish – purchased from R&R – and eaten by the side of the road on the causeway. As uninitiated, we didn’t know that buying 10 pounds of crawfish with additional potatoes and corn was way too much food for just the two of us. And then we laid out our spread by the bay, well within the reach of 100s of seagulls. We were in the middle of a reenactment of The Birds being dive bombed for our lunch.

After eating our fill, and burning every calorie by waving off the gulls constantly, we tossed them some heads that we hadn’t completely sucked dry and went on our merry way. Of course I was holding my breath the whole drive on the windy causeway, but I lived and have more stories to tell you next week.

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Check back with me to learn how this Braves and Falcons fan is becoming a BayBears and Jags fan, how much crawfish and gumbo I can eat when I attend every Cajun Cook Off in the city, how many times I can run into Mayor Stimpson in LoDa, how much I rely on the Lagniappe newspaper and 92ZEW radio station for local events info, how much fun I can have at SouthSounds, Bellingrath, the USS Alabama, etc., and how much I’m enjoying this terrify city I now call home.

Until next time, all the best to you,

Courtney Harjung

P.S. Since Tom is keen on paving the world, I’m all for saving the world. Please recycle! The City of Mobile Recycling Center is located at 1451 Government Street. It operates seven days a week from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. The location is actually accessible 24 hours a day. The Mobile County Recycling Center is located at 7450 Hitt Road. It operates seven days a week from 8:00 am – 6:30 pm.

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