OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXVII
Sometimes, I am not in the mood for “adventures”, and I am all business, with not much time for extra-curriculars or nonsense.
THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE TRIPS.
The first half of the trip was about as planned, and even with a dozen moving parts and several considerations (including being unable to lock in my rental or lodging until the day before the trip itself, because it took two business days to get an important check to clear), everything went off without a snag. Well, beyond the expected snags. You see, in most of Essex County, you cannot park on the street during certain hours of the early morning, which obvious affects all aspects of travel planning when a rental car is involved. This matter was the chief cause in curtailing what could have been a day longer trip. I had hoped to see some friends down in the “DMV” region, including one I haven’t seen in nearly 20 years. But it was not to be.
Once the check cleared, I booked at my typical, LaQuinta. I didn’t want to be in Baltimore proper, and booked for Jessup, so I could hide away. I never know who is tracking me ha. And no, I am not paranoid. The car rental was virtually free, which is obviously a good price in my book. However, I could not take advantage of the “pick up/return” service that Hertz provides for Gold Club members, because East Orange sucks anus in every fathomable way. There is no business here, no banks want to deal here unless it is near a train station, and so many conveniences are sorely missing. You have to go to Montclair or downtown Newark, or somewheres like West Orange and points north to get the conveniences that someone say, from New York City, would virtually take for granted. The bus costs more than a train ride (within the same zone), and usually doesn’t run close to the places that I must go, which makes public transportation mostly useless for me unless I am heading to South Orange, Newark or into the city.
Why do I say all of this? There used to be a Hertz in West Orange, as I remembered years ago. I began my search there, only to find out that it had been closed. Next option was Montclair. I called the location to get pick up service, since I currently do not have a car (will be the first item on the agenda once I am working again, best believe). The rep said that they cannot come to East Orange because it is “too far” (four miles, mind you), because it is more than 15 minutes round trip. Balderdash. But I dealt with them anyway, because it was last-minute. They were otherwise cool, so I let it go. Having to call for cab service is another one of those aforementioned conveniences that you take for granted in the city. You don’t NEED to call for car service unless you absolutely want to. There wasn’t a single day in recent memory that I left my building and didn’t have a Black car honk at me in case I needed a lift. And even though the cab discrimination has legs (and justifiably so, if you knew what cab drivers in NYC deal with from riff raff from Uptown), you can get a yellow cab at about a 1 in 10 rate for available cabs when you are Black or Brown (as opposed to 9 out of 10 for everyone else, and all women).
This is not the case out here. Yes, I lived out here before, so none of this is news, but it is annoying. It adds to the length of trips. Instead of being able to hail a black car, or better yet, have the company pick me up as a Gold Club member, I had to call a cab, wait for him to arrive, and pay commensurately. A minor annoyance. I needed coffee and some cash for tolls and what not, so I made a stop in my usual playground in the Paramus area, got both and zoomed down Route 21. I needed to do my wash, also, so I had thrown that in the car, knowing I would be able to do it at the hotel. I had been up since about 8:30 am nonstop running and finalizing plans so that I could enjoy myself at the wedding; the reason I was heading to Baltimore to begin with. Jace is like the older sister I never had ha, so seeing her get married really inspires me to kind of check myself. God knows I am 35 now and was seemingly 25 just a year ago. Time for me to get serious about this. Attending weddings make me wistful and self-reflective (which has been mostly ugly since I am one of those casualties of the Recession who has seemingly been black-balled in the market since 2009).
I wanted to avoid tolls on the way down, because I knew I would most likely need to use the Turnpike on my way home. I took Route 1 down to 130 and 295 until I got to the Delaware Memorial. Made great time, as it was early afternoon and not much traffic. I was in Baltimore by 4:30, and got to Jessup about 20 minutes later. Check-in was swift and pain-free (which is a rarity nowadays, given all the of the tooth-pulling I have had to deal with from Comcast and others who I have to double back with four and five times to have simple matters resolved). I was able to get my shirt and tie ironed and hopped back into the car back to Baltimore with about 20 minutes to spare before the 7 pm start time. We were apparently on CP time, so I was actually about an hour early ha. But no harm done, my slate was blocked off for this purpose, so I had nowheres to be anyway. One thing about running around all day, particularly when some of it is driving, is that you can get by on adrenaline, but once you sit down, the fatigue and double lassitude begin to kick in.
I like being spontaneous, that’s why there’s never really a dull moment around me, and some people are “entertained” by my rants and what not. My road rage has calmed down a great deal, which was apparent in the fact that I did not lose my voice by screaming and cursing out drivers left and right, which was a hallmark of being in the car with me for years. I was in a pretty mellow and laid back mode on this day. Wasn’t in a bad mood, wasn’t hopping with energy (mostly because of mental fatigue).
I took the scenic route through Baltimore to get to the church where the wedding was held. They have really cleaned up certain areas around the city, I will say that much. I did spit on Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and thankful that we won’t hear anymore Seven Nation Army “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” chants anytime soon. M&T Bank Stadium is next door, as anyone who has been down on the harbor knows. I have no problems with the Ravens or their fans, so I just took in the view (since I am dolo for a lot of these trips, you all miss out on some great picture ops — especially after the reception in the midnight lights, as the stadium is a good view from Johns Hopkins).
The wedding was pretty smooth and (thankfully) lacking that tension and anxiety that you sometimes see. The bride and groom were genuinely glad to be there and without being worried about every single detail (which is what leads to a lot of that tension that sometimes makes weddings unenjoyable). After the ceremony, we headed off to the reception over by Towson State University. Naturally, being the handicapper I am, I got about 27 notifications about bettor’s lines, and a couple of calls and texts asking for advice heading into the game, and for 1st half calls ha. You would think I still made books like I did back in high school, or were a degenerate gambler. I am neither. Just a mere handicapper at this point.
The point here is that I got lost in everything until nearly halftime. I was awaiting the wedding party to arrive, as I was one of the first people to the reception. The next thing I know, I walked in, and they were about ready to be presented to the onlookers. I had been given a specific seat and table, and missed out on my placement because degenerate gamblers suddenly became chatty as soon as I leave home for a day. Nevertheless, it was a good time and an honor to be in the presence of a new husband and wife. Couldn’t be more genuinely happy than I am right now.
This is where the warm fuzzies stopped, however. Well, other than running into some chicks from Towson, leaving a party on York Road ha, and then heading over to see what was going on at Johns Hopkins.
I got back to the hotel, and my swipe card had demagnetized, and had to request a new one at 1 AM. THEN, I had to fit in time to do my wash. I got half of it done before I got tired and crashed at 3 am. I knew I had to get an earlier start before checkout, because I had several errands to run. One of my friends back home wanted to get some cheaper smokes (they are ridiculous enough in NYC at $12 per pack on average, and only a couple bucks cheaper out in Jersey), so ANYTHING cheaper seems like winning the lottery. Once I finished the wash first thing this morning, I checked out and hit the road. I didn’t even have a chance to have coffee, which probably contributed to my mood all day (and the burgeoning and throbbing headache that was on its way to making me snap by the time I got back to Montclair.)
The first place I went was the one I had singled out from the start. I get there, and John Wu wants me to wait for an hour for his shipment to arrive. YEAH RIGHT. (Imagery from Cam’ron’s “Shanghai” song were playing in my head.) I’ve got time to make, and I wanted to get back on THIS side of New Brunswick before traffic got out of hand (more on that later; I obviously failed, which was the impetus for writing this piece.) He had no Newport Lights whatsoever, short box or 100’s, so I had to scramble to find someplace else in a radius that made sense (i.e. heading northward along the way.) I ended up going to two places in the Severna Park/South Baltimore areas, one had a carton of short box Newport Lights, but no 100’s. Got the short box for my friend, who smokes those, and continued looking for the 100’s. Ended up in PARKVILLE, just outside Baltimore on the north, and ended up sitting at light after light, only to find out the place had been converted into a Subway restaurant. After that, it was about 1:30 and just broke down and got them from the gas station. Still $5 cheaper per pack than in NYC, and $2-3 cheaper than in Jersey. Win. I guess. But now I am getting close to my limit on time. I had to pick up some things from Wal-Mart that I absolutely needed to have.
This is when my patience ran out for the rest of the day.
First of all, the store was riddled with Ravens fans. I saw people wearing jerseys of guys who hadn’t played since like 2001. It’s like Ravens fans try hard to prove that they are longtime diehards of a team that hasn’t even been in the area for 20 years. We get it, you don’t want to be called a bandwagoner. But literally 1 in 3 people had on some sort of Ravens paraphernalia, had a disgusting beer gut (women included), a couple of chins, and had this weird accent that you don’t really hear in the Baltimore area (I was in Nottingham/White Marsh). These were Duck Dynasty types. And boy, the store was managed like it. Logical items that one would figure to be juxtaposed with like items were on the complete opposite side of the store, and items that make no sense being together were sharing aisles. Of course, this meant zig-zagging the store twice. I was zooming through like I was on Supermarket Sweep, though. I had a list and stuck to it. But once I went to checkout, I nearly lost it. I am not insensitive to those with limited mobility, but I got stuck behind TWO people in carts. When I have no pressures for time, I don’t mind. They often talk to me when I stand on a line behind them. It’s like they can pick up that I was mostly raised by people much older than my parents when I wasn’t WITH my parents. That’s why older people don’t view me with the same disdain as if I were some disgusting miscreant, like they do many people in the generation behind me. But today was not the day for that. I knew I needed to allow at LEAST three hours flat to get back to East Orange and clear out the car before heading back to Montclair before the location closed for the evening.
I stood on line for 30 minutes before I even got to checkout, because out of all of the weave queens with no edges and the large number of chicks with the “I like Black guys” haircut and disposition running around the store with their heads cut off, not a SINGLE ONE got on a register. I stared a hole through one of them, and I guess she thought I was flirting, but I was incensed, because she stood and chatted about something petty for a good 5 minutes with a co”worker” instead of opening a line. The lines were backed through the aisles into the shopping area, because there were only three lines open for about 50 people standing on line.
Needless to say, I was in DEFCON-1 mode from there. I knew I had to be prepared for the typical Friday evening peak hour congestion on the Turnpike and Parkway, and I got both. I zoomed through Maryland and Delaware, and the first 30 miles on the Turnpike. Surely people were not heading to the shore (Exit 7) when it is going to be in the low 50s on Sunday for a HIGH. There was no wreck. No stalled vehicles. Once I hit Exit 7, traffic hit a dead stand-still, and remained that way until hitting the Edison exit about 20 miles up the road. That’s about an hour and 10 minutes to move 20 miles, if you are scoring at home.
Once the road split (the middle lanes are completely shut off while they finish paving and striping them below Exit 8), and the trucks and buses do what they know they need to do, I was able to get up to “Average Madden Overall Rating” (so as not to “incriminate” myself ha) to make up SOME of the time, but it didn’t matter. I had hoped to be back home by 4:45/5:00, with about 15 minutes to unload the car and get it back before 6 pm. Unlike Newark Airport, which runs 24 hours, this location closes at 6 pm, so I was on a tighter run. Naturally, everyone and their mother was out in Newark and East Orange when I got back. Oh yeah, the 15th was just a couple of days ago. Makes sense.
But I hustled everything upstairs in about 4 trips (returning to walking 5 miles every time I head to class has helped with my conditioning; I nearly DIED moving in here in August, this time, I was fine.) Afterward — thankfully, I had gotten gas as soon as I got off the Parkway — I was on two wheels on the back roads up to Montclair. Thank God the attendant was still there, and didn’t give me a hassle, since I was an hour and a half late.
I had to call car service FOUR times to get the guy to come, but he finally did; at nearly 8 pm. So a day that began at 8:30 and culminated some 12 hours later, after nonstop, perpetual motion came to an end. I barely even had the energy to go to the fridge for some salami and make some popcorn later; much less cook. And I’m fine with that. I got to witness a beautiful wedding, got away the monotony for a couple of days, got back safely and in one piece, without spending much money (critical), and another set of memories are added to the bank in OMW’s Adventures, as another weekend of huge college and NFL games are set to be consumed by me nonstop for the next two days.
Besides, it beats THIS — which I sat in from Exit 6 all the way to the Lincoln Tunnel a few years ago in a snowstorm that arrived a few hours earlier than I expected at that time: