I’m not sure what month it was, but very shortly after I moved to West Palm I realized I was in a different world. Driving down Royal Poinciana (boutiques and restaurants on both sides, ginormous palm trees lining the median) on the way to work, I stopped at a red light. I noticed I felt pretty high in the air as I sat in my red Chevy Equinox SUV, something I am not familiar with as some friends have called my SUV a hybrid between a van and a SUV. I looked to my left; a black Maserati driven by an older gentleman with a dark tan and white hair that only made him look distinguished, not older. Someone who probably wears Italian loafers and matching driving gloves (do those still exist? I feel like this car would come with a pair in the glove box.) To my right; a red Ferrari driven by a woman with hair so blonde it looked white. The diamonds in her ears were the size of a small planet and her extremely smooth skin (smoother than I could ever imagine having and she was well past mid-age) was covered by a full face of makeup. This was an extremely long red light and yes, I was staring. I almost grimaced as I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a creamy, white colored Bentley idle behind me, probably wondering what this normal looking, run-of-the-mill car from Indiana was doing on this side of the bridge (people have to work…).
Good Lord, I thought. No wonder I felt I was high in the air. I was wedged in between two of the most expensive, low-riding, beautiful pieces of metal I had ever seen (the Bentley switched lanes and turned; I decided it looked like some kind of glamorous hearse). I proceeded to take inventory of my own car: an empty Panera cup in one holder, my coffee Tervis Tumbler in the other. A Target bag filled with junk I had collected from my car that I had been forgetting to throw away. A sandy towel that was probably developing mold still stuffed in my beach bag from a few days before. One or more brown paper bags from Makeb’s Deli that fulfilled my breakfast needs (multi-grain bagel, scooped out, fat-free veggie cream cheese), many days before the sun was up. The gray fabric interior was stained in some spots from a Diet Coke that froze then exploded while my car was parked on a side street in Chicago two years ago and the dashboard—it was buried beneath a nice film of dust.
In the last seconds of that red light, I remember leaning my head back on the head rest and laughing at the whole scenario. What the HELL had I gotten myself into?
I’ll tell you what I had gotten myself into. I worked on an island where popping your collar is still acceptable, if not encouraged. Where pink linen pants and an equally bright polo/linen shirt have been seen exiting the Bethesda by the Sea church on any given Sunday morning. Where there is more plastic than a Tupperware party and I’m not just talking about the exclusive American Express Black Card (those things hardly qualify for plastic; the thing weighs a ton). Where women still wear fancy-schmancy hats to lunch….these seriously are “ladies who lunch.”
Where I have been asked, “are those your own?” in which she was referring to my EYELASHES (shout out to Maybelline for awesome mascara). Where one woman inquired, “who is in charge of your hair? What color do you tell her you want it?”
Well, I am very much in charge of my own hair unless it is an extremely hot and humid day, which tends to be pretty frequent around here. Then, it has a mind of its own. And what color do I tell my colorist? Being the predominately natural blonde that I am, I only focus on my roots and I can thank L’Oreal and their fantastic box for supplying the mix that brings my dark blonde roots back to a buttery hue that matches the rest of my hair. The best part about the whole thing? Walgreens usually has my brand on sale….2-for-$12 (I think the woman was slightly appalled when I told her I did it myself…)!
Palm Beach is also where six year olds have cell phones and where I had a conversation with an 11 year old debating whether AT&T or Verizon was better (one of my favorite stories).
I kid you not, I told the little girl I had AT&T and she said “yuck!” I politely asked why she said that and she responded she only got service with AT&T in Palm Beach and not in Manhattan. I then asked her the next logical question you would ask any 11 year old (seriously…?!) with this problem.
“Where do you spend the most time? Manhattan? Palm Beach? You should probably figure that out first.”
The girl nodded at that thought then turned to her nanny and repeated the question to her. The nanny responded:
“You live in Manhattan. You come here on the weekends, holidays, and vacations.”
The pint-sized girl with long blonde hair seemed to find her answer in that response.
“Totally. I’ll just get a phone for Manhattan and a phone for Palm Beach. That way I don’t have to decide.”
Kids. They say the darndest things….Although for some reason, I had no doubt that is exactly what she did.
Continuing, this is where I have seen other pint-sized kids better dressed than myself on a good day (ok, maybe the best dressed day I’ll ever have and that’s because of the half-yearly sale at Nordstrom). Head-to-toe Lilly Pulitzer for girls and button downs, bow ties, and linen pants for the little guys. I mean really, I can’t compete with an immaculately dressed five year old or her 30 year old mother and 70 year old father (trust me….common family). And that’s fine. But it’s always a fun laugh to see them trailing one after one another, Easter egg after Easter egg, on their way to Testa’s for breakfast or Nick and Johnnie’s for dinner.
It’s where I have picked out Lacoste polo shirts for a very prominent, very colorblind political figure and Google mapped the nearest Bank of America ATM for a young player on the PGA with a troubled past. It’s where I have been privileged to meet Jerry Seinfeld, Matt Lauer, Rush Limbaugh, Nick Swisher, Matt Shaub, Wayne Gretzky, Audrina Patridge and Brian Baumgartner (Kevin from The Office).
This disgustingly rich island is also where I have been tipped with not one, but TWO bananas. These people (who, thank the Lord, willingly spend their money to inadvertently help our economy) can afford six-figure cars and memberships to hoity-toity clubs around the world but an a banana? Alright, it was organic…but get REAL. Do I look homeless? Scarily skinny? I don’t think so.
If you’re still reading, I want everyone to know that I really did love my year here. Not every person on Palm Beach is the stereotypical figure I described. They’re much worse.
Kidding. I met some of the nicest and friendliest people on this little tropical island that some are lucky enough to call their second home–and I met some of the best friends I will have just across the bridge in West Palm. They welcomed me here when I was the newbie, showed me around, and included and introduced me to things I had never heard of, such as: Mimosa Sunday, the Grease Beast, SunFest, Call-a-Cabs, Roxy’s Rooftop, Paddle boarding, World of Beer, Makeb’s, Rocco’s Tacos, and Peanut Island….just to name a few.
I somewhat improved my golf game (I should say: my driving range game), went on some crappy dates (and one or two good ones), found a liking for running outside (the treadmill was the only thing I knew before…), and figured out that alarm clocks unfortunately DO work at all hours of the night…they never failed for a 4:45 a.m. wake-up call for work.
During my year in West Palm, at different times, I have felt happily surprised, deeply disappointed, fortunate, lucky, and most of all—thankful. For the friends I made, the job I had, and most importantly—the family that will soon be only a few hours away by CAR (goodbye, plane anxiety!!)
See you all in Chicago…