Continuing the series of his J1 experience, Cian Griffin shows why bringing your GAA jersey to the U.S is a must.
Our first few days in the Dirty Myrtle were turbulent; a gang shootout resulting in a death ten minutes from where you’re staying tends to have that effect! At that point, it was just myself and my friend Gemma there, with her friend and her boyfriend (our ‘designated adult’) not due to arrive for another few days. For our first few days, we were afraid to leave our bedroom, let alone the hotel – the only thing eventually breaking us was the hunger. Cue the first of many trips to Walmart – a true paradise on earth!
 
Our first shopping trip was memorable to say the least. We had no bikes at this stage – our main mode of transport for the summer – and we didn’t really understand the gravity of jaywalking across a highway! At that point, we didn’t really know what it was, or that it was, in fact, illegal (a fine of up to $250 apparently).
 
JWan Fact: ‘Jaywalking’ is the term used for crossing a road unlawfully, and without regard for oncoming traffic, i.e. legging it across and hoping for the best!
 
Let me paint a picture for you all; two terrified and very pasty white Irish kids standing on an island of grass with three lanes of traffic either side – cars zipping past us at the speed of light honking at us as we had low-key panic attacks. We were stranded there for a good twenty minutes before there was enough break in the traffic for us to sprint across; half laughing, half crying over our existence.
 
When we eventually found Walmart, it felt like Christmas. The place was HUGE. They say everything is bigger in the States, but that is such an understatement. Honestly, the place was the equivalent to about twenty Tescos all placed together like a jigsaw. It was a monstrous building that had practically everything you would (and wouldn’t) need! From clothes to condoms, razorblades to rifles, garden furniture to bikes; it was literally like ten shops in one! Yes, I did just say rifles, remember this is MURICA!
 
One thing we found very strange however, was the complete absence of spirits and liquors in supermarkets. These could not be bought anywhere other than off-licenses, which was something we never really got used to.
 
After what was probably about three hours, we left the shop with enough food to last us about an hour – which in hindsight was awfully foolish, and meant we had to come back the following day. But we were in so much awe that we didn’t really buy anything, I just accompanied Gemma as she ran around the shop screaming “Oh my God! It’s a 5kg bag of Cheerios! Oh my God! It’s microwavable chicken!”
 
The following day, we asked the receptionist Jay – you remember, the man with the silver teeth – for advice on how to actually get to Walmart and we told him about the previous day.
 
“You ran cross the ha’way?! Do you kids got a death wish or summin?!” he screamed in shock as he practically leapt over his counter to slap us silly. We kind of just looked at each other awkwardly.
 
“God dammit! I don’t want no J1 blood on my paws. You kids got bikes yet?”
 
“Not yet…” I replied hesitantly.
 
“Jesus Christ! Hold up!” he muttered, rolling his eyes but also kind of smiling at our apparent stupidity, “I got you kids covered.”
 
Jay sorted us out with a lift and three minutes later the taxi man pulled up outside. As the two of us were climbing into the six seater, a boy and a girl pulled out of the hotel on bikes and after the two got a glance at the Wick City jersey (Wicklow) I was purposely wearing to attract other Irish people, they both grinned and waved at us. Ten minutes later, we bumped into them in Walmart and chatted for about two hours and quickly became friends.
 
So the moral of the story is, when you’re an Irish abroad looking to make new friends, where the county jersey and you are sorted!