This morning I make what I hope will be my very last trip that features New Jersey as the destination. I mean, I don’t mind passing through the Garden State on my way to Maine, but going for a long weekend in New Jersey isn’t the sort of thing you brag about around the office. This will be the sixth or seventh such trip I’ve made since my son enrolled in grad school up there two years ago and let me tell you, it’s been an education.
For example, I’ve learned to fill up with gas in Delaware or Maryland before entering NJ, because once you cross the Soprano’s state line you have to pay a dollar more per gallon. Why? Well, it seems that a law passed in 1920 that restricted consumers from pumping their own gas is still on the books. Therefore, every gas station in the entire state is full service only and somebody has to pay for that attendant. I’m told that the pumpers have their own union, to protect them from any potential changes in the law that might eliminate their jobs. Of course that may be one of those urban legends, but when you observe how slow these guys move and discover just how little the word “full” means in “full service”, you have no trouble at all believing that these guys are union men.
Then there are the famous traffic laws that plague this state. One day years ago in Trenton, a committee of New Jersey’s finest public servants went out and tied on a 5 martini lunch. Then they all stumbled back to their back room in the capital building and devised the traffic plan from the pits of hell whereby somebody slurred, “Heyyyy, I gots an idea…Why don’t we make it illegal for anyone in New Jersey to make a left hand turn?!” This made perfect sense only to drunk legislators; nevertheless it became the law of the land.
So, when I’m driving down number one highway just outside of Princeton and I see my hotel on the other side of the highway, I can’t make a left at the light. No, I have to continue driving, oh I don’t know, another ten miles or so until I come upon a “loop road.” This is a creation born of the aforementioned 5 martini lunch whereby someone wanting to turn left must first turn right, negotiate a sweeping loop around to a stop sign, then merge onto another road that takes you back to number one highway where you sit for five minutes at a red light. Only after all of these steps can you then turn back onto your original road going in the opposite direction. This scheme is administered by the New Jersey Traffic Commission, a bureau under the auspices of the New Jersey Transportation Administration and Laundromat. This also explains why New Jersey’s Governor’s biggest scandal involved not kickbacks or sexual sin but…traffic.
Incidentally, the reason for this trip is actually a glorious thing. My son is graduating from Westminster Choir College with a Masters Degree in composition. I couldn’t be more proud of his talent and hard work. I also couldn’t be happier that he’s soon moving to Nashville.