The following is a real life (exaggerated) account of my journey down the New Jersey Turnpike on Easter Sunday.
The Le Sabre is humming along at 70mph as I approach exit 30A on the Garden State Parkway. Of the many hieroglyphics I see on the large green sign, “95 South” is what my eyes lock onto. I must make my move. Without a moments hesitation I violently spin the wheel in a clockwise direction; the Le Sabre happily complies. Cutting across two lanes of traffic, I slip past the guardrail and onto the entrance ramp for interstate 95. But wait! A tollbooth I am now approaching. The Le Sabre rolls to a stop. I am staring at a large black woman in glasses. She is saying something to me but I just can’t seem to understand. I roll down my window, Odd Future still blasting on my Kenwood stereo. She didn’t seem all that surprised to see smoke billowing out my window and dancing away into the sunny afternoon sky. “Four Dollars” she yells to me; a nominal fee for riding the deathtrap I’ve come to know as the New Jersey Turnpike. There’s a reason New Jersey has the highest car insurance rates in the country.
No sooner do I pull away from the tollbooth then I am forced to slam on my brakes. “I Ride With Jesus” reads the bumper sticker of the minivan I nearly swapped metal with. My right hand immediately forms the shape of a middle finger that I happily stick out the window for the minivan to appreciate. The middle finger is an obligation when behind the wheel, and I give it often.
As we begin our merger onto the most traveled highway in America, I make sure to aggressively pass the minivan on the right, giving an angry look to the man commandeering it. Upon closer inspection I see a family on board, probably heading to grandma’s for this glorious Easter holiday. I cut them off and proceed to accelerate to 80mph; “Happy Passover” I think to myself.
The Le Sabre is now sandwiched between two large 18-wheeled trucks, and suddenly I don’t feel so safe. I am driving in a canyon, shadows cast over me, large wheels spinning uncomfortably close to my person. I think about the movie 2Fast 2Furious and nearly swallow my adams apple. Is it a realistic fear to think these rigs will both try and merge into my lane and crush my Le Sabre and I? There will be a trail of blood and metal all the way down to Delaware. They’ll pull off at the next weigh station and congratulate each other on killing another motorist. Just some sick game truckers like to play with each other when they get bored. Well I decide not to stick around and find out. The Le Sabre has to work her way up to 85mph but I eventually emerge from between the two rigs with a newfound phobia of truckers.
Nothing but open road in front of me as I flip on the cruise control at 80mph. I want some good cruising music so I look to The Rolling Stones on my Ipod as I reach in the center console for my sunglasses. Windows down, the Stones blasting, sunny skies and an open road; I’m at peace. Then I speed past a state trooper. I immediately drop down to 60mph and take a deep breath. That peaceful feeling I had a minute ago is now a painful knot in my stomach. My eyes are fixed on the rearview mirror as I listen for the sirens. One mile down the road and no sign of him yet. Did he pull out or not? Maybe there wasn’t anyone in the car? The anticipation of getting pulled over is almost unbearable, I grip the wheel tightly but my mind begins to wonder.
I’m so preoccupied with what’s behind me; I fail to see what is in front of me. Traffic cones are bouncing off my front bumper and littering the road behind me. The Rolling Stones are still blasting as I tear through the front windshield like it’s tissue paper. I have no sympathy for the devil right now. “What a propitious afternoon” I think to myself as I soar through the afternoon sky like a human missile. I must have cleared twenty yards before I hit the asphalt. With all that momentum I slid another ten yards down the road before coming to a halt. At this point I’m not feeling like myself, but all I can think about is how smooth the turnpike felt against my face. I must credit the state of New Jersey for providing me with such a smooth road to smear my skin and blood across. Our tax dollars at work. Finally the state trooper catches up to me.
I feel the sudden urge to grab my face and squeeze a handful of soft skin. I must have nodded off while waiting for this bastard to write me a ticket. I’m parked on the shoulder of the Turnpike, facing the concrete barrier that I had just dreamed I crashed into. “The speed limit is 55mph in a construction zone, you were doing 80mph,” the officer tells me. Is he expecting me to be remorseful or something? “I wrote that I clocked you at 65mph instead of 80mph so your ticket will be reduced” he said as he handed me a $160 ticket. “Go Blue Hens” he said before retreating to his cruiser.
I’m not so far from Delaware when I hear a terrible sound from underneath the Le Sabre. My first thought is that one of my tires blew out and it’s only a matter of seconds before the Le Sabre spins out of control, crashing into multiple vehicles and flinging me out of my windshield for real this time. In anticipation of this event, I quickly pull over to the shoulder. I stand two feet from cars whizzing past me at 80mph as I step out of the Le Sabre. Imaging how my body might react to being hit by 4,000 pounds of metal traveling at high speeds makes me cringe. All four wheels are intact but a piece of the metal shield that covers the chassis has become unbolted and his dangling from underneath the car. I try to rip it off but half of it is still bolted on. Seeing this as no real potential threat to the safety of my journey, I decide to continue and just ignore the sound.
This was a regrettable decision. After grinding along the Turnpike for a long enough time, the piece of metal is finally ripped from underneath the car. However, as a parting gift the metal shield slashes my back left tire. The Le Sabre begins to shake violently as I hear the deflated wheel slapping against the asphalt. I throw my hazards on and try to maneuver across three lanes of traffic and get my Le Sabre to safety. With car horns whizzing past me, I am able to narrowly avoid an accident and get the Le Sabre off the road.
With the Delaware Memorial Bridge in sight, I find myself parked on the shoulder of the Turnpike for the third time today. There’s nothing to do but sit and wait for Triple A to rescue me. As the cars and trucks go speeding past me, I reflect on every way I could of died while traveling on the Turnpike today. Every year there are roughly eight thousand accidents on the Turnpike resulting in about thirty fatalities. That means thirty people will ride the Turnpike each year and not live to tell about it. Watching the sun set over the Delaware River, I feel very fortunate not to be one of these thirty people.
As I lean against the Le Sabre and spark a cigarette, a minivan comes careening off the road and crashes into my car and I. It backs up and pulls away, the front of it completely decimated. “I Ride With Jesus” reads the bumper sticker. “So that’s what it’s like to be hit with 4000 pounds of metal,” I think to myself. As I lie deformed and bleeding in the wreckage that used to be my Le Sabre, I realize that I don’t have much time left, so I raise my right hand for a final gesture. I stick a bloody middle finger in the air, and then I am at peace. Giving the middle finger is an obligation, and I do it often.