Birthdays, Jersey & Border Crossing. Oh My!

It’s getting harder and harder to cross the border these days.  The NY/NJ border that is.

My family and I live on the Connecticut border.  And on Saturday night, we had a family birthday party in Jersey. Honestly, I really didn’t want to attend.  First, let me start by saying I never understood adult birthday parties unless it’s that milestone every 5-year birthday one is celebrating after the 21-year birthday marker.  This party was the 88th for this birthday boy.  I bit my lip and made the exception for this guy.  I mean, he is my Father-in-law, so I kinda had to go.   Second, I am hesitant to make the drive from NY to NJ anytime.  The number of people that live in the Tri-State area can match a third world country so on any given day and time you will encounter some sort of traffic.  I always just pray we time our trek correctly and cross our fingers the travel gods are on our side.  And remember I had to go to this celebration.

Our journey begins at 4 pm, and we surprisingly find the voyage over the GW into Jersey and to our destination simple. Wow, 1.5 hours.  Boom! Check 1!

Okay, now I’m sitting at this bleak, loud restaurant – you know the kind of loud that hinders you from even talking to the one person sitting next to you, but you have to try with making small talk and the ever rehearsed hand jesters pointing to the table appetizers mouthing – do you want this? That? You get my drift.  We are sitting with family we rarely see and unfortunately won’t see again until the next non-5-year birthday celebration.  The food and service I give a 4 rating and to top it all off on this particular night, the restaurant fire alarm kept going off every ½ hour through our “party” time.  I honestly put my best “show face” on and rode it out.  Thank you to my 4 years studying at Lee Strasberg School of Acting!

Party was not long, and by 10 pm we were in the car heading back to NY from NJ.  All I could think to myself was, “I made it.”  I made my husband and my father-in-law happy.  Good wife!  Check 2!

But you know the saying, “you never know what the future might bring?”  Our future brought nothing more than the most torturous, I can’t breathe, I hate Jersey, I hate wine, I hate chocolate, I want a divorce, lead me to the execution chamber, type of agonizing traffic.  Just brutal.

Here we are clueless as to the number of cars on the road. (Why?  I have no idea.  Both of us are from this area.)  Driving North on I-95 in Jersey, not even close to the GW and out of nowhere it’s a dead stop.  Inch by inch our car is moving without stepping on the gas. Yup, it’s that bad.  And we are aggravated by that uncomfortable auto start-stop function in vehicles these days.  I attempt to turn it off, and my husband says, “No, no keep it on, kinda low on gas.”  Wait.  What?  I have no idea why the traffic is stopped, the only gas we have is the farting coming from our 10-year old in the back seat & my fellow car drivers on this road have expressions that could resemble the look of fear on the faces of wanna-be immigrants attempting to cross the Mexican/US border.

There are no flashing signs or warnings on what might be ahead. Nada, nothing.  Not even a snarky Jersey sign that says, “Ayyy crossing the GW? Yea, yous think you are!”  (Yes, yous. It’s a word in NY/NJ. Look it up!)

I Googled and find out that there is construction work being performed on every single lane but ONE over the GW Bridge, between the hours of “right now and later.”

I’m panicking.  We are stuck in the car, in the longest TSA line, waiting to run out of gas.  Holy crap, there’s no way out of Jersey.  Ever! I lost all hope.  But somehow by the grace of God, I see it, and it was bright. The only sign and it read: “LAST EXIT IN NEW JERSEY.”  You know, that sign was put there by the brilliant poor soul still stuck in Jersey helping the rest of us get out.  Whoever you are, I love you.  We hang a sharp right, and we’re off.  Oh yes, baby, we got this.  We are back & determined to quickly fill’er up and cross this river even if the Jersey law is also to be separated from your loved ones as you cross over to the other side.  If need be, I’ll leave my husband.  He’ll figure out how to get back to New York!

Mario Cuomo Bridge.  Yep, that’s our path.  Here we go driving up on 9W through some pretty dark & dingy Jersey towns that I know will be depicted in the next Martin Scorsese film and I spot her through the trees.  A beautiful steel cabled structure with twinkling white lights signaling us the road to our freedom.  I’m so excited, I let out a yell, “there she is” as my husband and I fist pump each other.  Yes, I know, stupid over spotting a bridge.  But hell, I was in my car for longer than we have the car leased and I had to pee!  Our car tires, now racing on this yellow brick road, we curve our way around I-287 leading us onto the elevated platform. There is a sign marking the exact moment you cross the NJ/NY line. Like two escaped prisoners we chant as we cross, “we made it, we made it!”

I click my heels, 3.5 hours later, we roll into our driveway.  Numb with exhaustion but wide awake, my bladder now so full my back teeth are floating, I step out of the car and carry my sleeping 10-year old to his bed.  He looks at me and says, “Finally, we got home, you both are ridiculous, you were acting like children. And oh, I left my IPAD in Jersey!”  We made it home, are still a family and pretty sure we aren’t traveling to Jersey anytime in our near future.  Check 3!

And that’s my time!

For the record:

  • I’m a big Bon Jovi Fan
  • I had a summer share in Belmar back in the day
  • Bridgegate lives

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