For thousands of Northeast Florida commuters, stopping at a Kangaroo Express or Daily’s convenience store every workday morning is just part of getting the day started: grabbing a cup of coffee, an energy drink or a sticky bun and a newspaper before heading to the cubicles or whatever business venue they occupy. Kema Patterson, who moved here just this past March, and Samantha O’Neill, who’s been here since 2000, are way ahead of you. They’re already at work when you open the door to their newly renovated Kangaroo Express/BP on Philips Highway. The two women, who are usually scheduled for the same shift at the incredibly busy six-pump gas station and built-out store (now with a walk-in beer cooler!), cheerfully greet customers in between stocking shelves, cleaning up spilled Roo Cups and conquering the lottery rules and regs. How they manage to be welcoming, pleasant and polite to the steady stream of humanity — mostly regulars (like me), along with tourists trying to find I-95 North as well as some sketchy characters and some very rude clientele — day after day is beyond me. Their people skills are truly remarkable to witness. They recently took a break — off the clock, boss — to answer our questions about being here now.
Folio Weekly: What are the disappointing things about living in Northeast Florida?
Kema Patterson: I don’t really know too many places to go even with small children. They aren’t many programs that are reasonably priced for kids in the summer.
Samantha O’Neill: Nothing to do. Night life activities are non-existent.
How does Northeast Florida compare with other places you’ve lived?
Patterson: I enjoy living here. The people are so nice and friendly; they don’t mind lending a hand.
O’Neill: It’s very relaxing and slow-paced — a great place to retire. It’s relaxing.
What do you tell folks back home about where you live now?
Patterson: It’s a nice place; you should come visit. I had company visit here last weekend.
O’Neill: Jacksonville is very clean … but kind of boring.
What was the reason you moved here?
Patterson: I had a choice: to work in Seattle, Washington or Jacksonville, Florida. So I chose Jacksonville. It’s closer to my family, so I can visit them more often. I moved here mostly for the job.
O’Neill: I have family here. And the schools were better here than in Queens, New York — at least they were in 2000, anyway.