Friday, December 5, 2008


These facts come mostly from this past weekend. Feel free to print them out, paste them onto 3X5 cards, and use them as talking points at your next party.

Fact: New Jersey is the most moronic place to drive in the world. I've driven in a lot of places: LA; Boston; New York City; Cozumel, Mexico; Atlanta and other locales, and I can say pretty confidently that whoever laid out the roads, signage and signals in New Jersey was either the Marquis de Sade or Koko the gorilla. Before she could talk. Consider that in many places, one cannot turn left. In order to turn left, you have to turn right, go around a jughandle, wait at a traffic light, and then go straight across the intersection. It doesn't seem to have occurred to the good folks in New Jersey that no other state in the entire country has adopted this inane traffic pattern, and maybe there's some reason for that. That's why the above Wikipedia link specifically says "New Jersey jughandle". Sometimes you have to do a complete 180 via jughandle. You have to drive a mile or so past your destination on the left, turn right, loop around, turn left at the light, and then go back the mile or so to get to where you want to be. Oh, and that light you have to stop at? It's a "delayed green". That means that when it's green for you, it's not green for the oncoming traffic. Do they give you an arrow or any other indication that the light that's facing away from you is still red? Hell no. You just have to know that the traffic is not coming from the other direction and it's safe to turn in front of them. Fortunately, you have approximately 26 picoseconds to figure this out before the car behind you starts blowing its horn and continues it for a quarter mile after you've completed your turn. It's really fortunate that gas is cheap in New Jersey, because that's the only reason I can think of that anyone would stay there.

Fact: People are stupid. Besides the traffic and the 35-degree rain, the cherry on the sundae that was our New Jersey visit was that we got to unexpectedly spend 5 days visiting a loved one in the hospital. As I was heading down to the Au Bon Pain (motto: "Not quite as bland as hospital food") for a snack, an elderly gentleman got on the elevator with me. We were on the top floor. That's important. Being the chivalrous guy that I am, my hand was hovering over the elevator buttons and the conversation went like this:

Gilahi: Where're you headed?
Elderly man: Downstairs.

Fact: Some people are in the wrong job. Or maybe it's the right job, just in the wrong place. Our patient's roommate was a poor little Italian woman who'd had a stroke. I say "poor" not because she'd had a stroke, but because her family, who was with her night and day, was the loudest, most obnoxious group of raving lunatics it has ever been my displeasure to encounter. I'm guessing that, since she survived and was apparently recovering, her stroke wasn't all she had hoped it would be. Anyway, while we're there, the speech therapist pays a visit to tell her about her time in rehab. Remember, the little old lady is Italian and apparently doesn't speak a whole lot of English (and, thanks to her family, no doubt, is somewhat hard of hearing as well). The speech therapist has a heavy Australian accent.

LOL: ?
LOL: ?

At this point I was the one who was LOL. I would hate to be the one to try to decipher Mrs. P's accent in the future.

Fact: You are not allowed to pump your own gas in New Jersey. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as they have teams of the finest trained orangutans in the world to pump your gas for you. When this conversation took place, I had to go to the bathroom so badly that I was sloshing when I walked.

Gilahi: Fill it up with mid-grade, please.
Pumpmonkey: Fill it up?
Gilahi: Yes.
Pumpmonkey: With....?
Gilahi: Mid-grade.
Pumpmonkey: Mid-grade?
Gilahi (pointing at button on pump): 89 octane. This one.

Fact: At least one vineyard in New Jersey makes a surprisingly drinkable cabernet franc. "An insouciant little wine with a taste of blackcurrant and stone fruit on the front and just a hint of petroleum distillate at the end. The thick, foamy head lets you know that this is a wine of quality. If you're suffering from 'travel bloat' from eating out for days on end, this wine can really open up the sluices." And the waitress, ah the waitress.

Waitress: Do youse want ice in this?
Gilahi: In our cabernet franc? No, I don't think so.
Waitress: No, youse two would drink this without ice.

Whatever that means. What followed was a couple of minutes of her trying to decide where on our empty table she should put the bottle down. Eventually my wife picks a blank spot at random and says, "How about right here?" Since the bottle has been doing a Pit and the Pendulum motion for the past thirty seconds or so, it was with some relief that the waitress didn't have to finally make the decision on her own.

Fact: The definition of "clean" can change with your circumstances. When you've packed for a two-day trip that unexpectedly turns into a six-day trip, your choice of clothing can become rather, er, limited. Which is better, a shirt that smells like a Metro stairwell and has a soy sauce stain on it, or a shirt that smells like a zookeeper's heel and doesn't match your least disgusting pair of pants? How far away can you stay from people and not seem rude? If you put on enough deodorant, will it seep into the armpits of your shirt and perhaps stop them from actually decomposing? After you've smelled one pair of socks, how long should you wait for your sinuses to clear before you can tell what the next pair smells like?

Fact: In times of stress, your ideas about your health can sometimes change. We stopped at a Wawa (see "pumping your own gas in NJ", above). I was looking around for something to snack on. They didn't have these, but I really wish they had:

I try to eat right and watch my diet. Wawa sells fresh fruit, salads, water, health drinks, juice, and other stuff that you don't expect to find at convenience stores. Me? I got a fat-laden, sugar coated, Krispy Kreme apple fritter and a 22-ounce fountain Coke. After 6 days and 5 nights of hotels, restaurant food, hospitals, and driving around New Jersey to enjoy all these treats, I really didn't care too much if I went into a sugar coma. And you know what? It was gooooood.

Fact: There's no place like home. Even if you don't have any fresh monkey suckers.


Shannon said...

The gas pumping thing is why I stay the hell away from Jersey. Somehow, outsourcing your gas pumping is more work than just doing it yourself.

Gilahi said...

Shannon - Isn't it, though? And you can't even get fresh monkey suckers. It IS cheaper than the DC area, though, so we always fill up before we leave the area.

Mike said...

"New Jersey jughandle"

We have a few of these in the St. Louis area. Just enough of them so that when you want to use one you pause and go, "Oh, it's one of those things."

Gilahi said...

Mike - Crap. There goes some of my better righteous indignation about NJ being the only state in the country that has these things. Now I have to bad-mouth Missouri, too.

Herb of DC said...

I think you should submit this as a spec script for "National Lampoon's New Jersey Vacation."

I've also seen jug handles in Massachusetts; however, in Mass they seemed very Ye Olde Colonial and quaint.

Gilahi said...

OK, so my rant was completely inappropriate. There are jughandles in every state of the union plus Canada, Mexico, and Ethiopia. Sarah Palin got a $50 billion grant to put jughandles to nowhere throughout Alaska and then changed her mind about it. The Beltway is, in reality, the biggest jughandle in the world, taking in two states.

Still, I think NJ is the only state that has actually made these a way of life. In order to get from our hotel to the hospital, a 15-minute drive, we had to go through two of them. And if you miss your jughandle, then you have to drive miles out of your way.

LiLu said...

New Jersey: AKA, America's Armpit. I swear, the second you cross the border on 95 you can smell the sewage.

fiona said...

Is a jughandle like a lovehandle?
Just asking, I've never encountered the jug one, the love one ...yep

Bilbo said...

I have some experience with NJ jughandles from trying to find Fort Monmouth many years ago. The only thing I don't understand about jughandles is why L'Enfant passed up the opportunity to inflict those on DC drives along with everything else. And you may not know it, but "Au Bon Pain" is French for "hurts so good."

Gilahi said...

LiLu - Yeah, that's another thing. You can pay a toll and drive past all the plants and smoke and fumes with zillions of other drivers on the NJ Turnpike, or you can take I-295, which parallels it for 56 miles, and have less traffic, no tolls, trees, and a nice view. Yet most people take the turnpike. Heck, from 295 you can actually see the turnpike in a lot of places. I don't get it.

fiona - Yes, they're exactly the same. If you want to embrace New Jersey, grab it by the jughandles.

Bilbo - I guess L'Enfant was happy with making DC un-drivable in other ways. And I believe that "Au Bon Pain" was the original title of John Cougar Mellencamp's song, but he didn't want to sound pretentious.

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