I recently accepted a job at New Jersey City University (Motto: Please Notice Us!). For the past eight months, I’ve been commuting to Jersey City.
Or, to put it another way, for the past eight months I have been in eight jillion traffic jams.
As I sit there, stuck in the No Man’s Land between Newark Airport and the Pulaski Skyway (closed for repairs, apparently forever), I contemplate my surroundings.
On Route 9 there is a billboard that says “God Exists.” I wonder who this message is meant for.
I don’t think I’m the intended audience. I already agree with the sentiment, so I don’t get any new information from the message.
But I can’t imagine the message is for an atheist, either. I doubt a nonbeliever would read a billboard about God and think “I’m convinced!”
After much consideration, I’ve decided that the billboard is meant for people who are religious but forgetful. It’s easy to forget God exists on Route 9.
The closer I get to Jersey City, the denser the graffiti becomes. Most of it consists of mindless scribbles or gangland signs, but one effort never fails to catch my eye. Spray painted upon the wall of an abandoned factory is the sentiment “VEW DISTO.”
I have no idea what VEW DISTO means, but that doesn’t matter; it’s the presentation that gets me. The words are written in fiery, jagged letters. The composition is superb. The color choices are striking and effective. I am also dazzled by how huge it is; VEW DISTO is at least 40 feet long and 20 feet high. Its creation took time—and required ladders. That’s a degree of ambition not often found upon the walls of abandoned factories.
I wonder if there is a way that artist could give lessons to other vandals. Higher-quality graffiti wouldn’t make Jersey City less ugly, exactly, but it would make Jersey City more interesting.
Last week I watched a car slam into the rear end of a tow truck, which, as far as car accidents go, is pretty convenient.
I always hit a bottleneck in South Kearny. It is near a prison, and every morning I can see the inmates play pickup games of basketball and soccer in the yard. As I watch them, I think, “Convicted felons are having a better morning than I am.”
I complain, but sitting in traffic does allow my mind to wander in productive ways. I often come up with creative ideas for children’s book stories, which is wonderful. But no matter how inspired I become, I always return to the same thought: I really need to pee.
72 Replies to “Dispatches From My Commute”
Mike, Congrats on the job! Sorry about the commute. At least you get some quiet time to mull over new kids stories, e.g., How to Escape from Jail, Route 9, or Both, etc. (Could even be a sequel.)
You make a good point, of course, but a commute to Jersey City is anything but quiet.
The locals sure do like their horns.
nice piece … thank you …. it made me smile 😉
Thank you, good sir. And welcome to the blog. Feel free to stay a while.
Wouldja like a coffee? A scone, perhaps?
Last week I watched a car slam into the rear end of a tow truck, which, as far as car accidents go, is pretty convenient. <-snorted coffee out my nose. Thanks for that!!
My commute is 26 miles every morning and every night. Through road construction because, as you know, in Wisconsin there are two seasons: 7 months of winter and 5 months of road construction.
However, I make the most of my commute by CRANKING MY STEREO IN MY CAR AND SINGING ALONG TO celine dion, rascal flatts, Glee, John Legend's "all of me", Whitney Houston, Gatlin brothers, THE EAGLES!!! and other misc people.
Life is good.
Oh, yes, the stereo is my friend, too. But my weapons of choice are The Cars, Pat Benatar, The Vapors, Queen… Gotta keep it up-tempo if I’m gonna stay awake.
I just have to be able to sing along at the top of my lungs. Wave when you drive by.
Now, you’re in Wyoming, yes? It would require A LOT of detours for me to end up there.
nope, still on Wisconsin’s west coast. You can just wave in my general direction.
Ah, I knew it started with a “W”. Commute detours usually take me thought Wisconsin. Save a hunk of cheddar for me, will ya?
and a cheese hat too?
I thought that went without saying.
ah. You’ll blend right in wearing THAT out there in Joisey.
It is a great test for learning patience and enjoying being with yourself. Using your imagination is a great idea for coming up with story ideas. Think you have this handled, whether you want to or not. Fun post.
Thanks Patricia. But, geeze, learning patience makes me so crabby!
Congrats on the job! It must be a shock to face those pesky traffic issues again.
My last job was a long commute, but I hardly ever faced traffic. This Jersey City thing, however, is a whole other animal.
I stayed in Jersey for BookCon and I vowed to never, ever, ever try to drive in the area. Much sympathy for your pain.
(Also, I’m sure you know this, but audiobooks and podcasts make commutes infinitely better!)
Where was BookCon located?
At Javits Center in NYC. But I stayed in a Jersey City Airbnb.
Ah. Here’s hoping your accommodations were near the Hudson. That part of JC is pretty nice.
These days, I commute from NYC to NJ several times a week. I take a bus, Mike. So much easier to leave the driving to someone else! And I still get time to amuse myself. 😉 xoxoM
I thought about public transit, but I didn’t want to be at the mercy of another vehicle’s schedule. Also, I probably wouldn’t get such a good view of the prison.
So! What brings you to NJ so often?
Like you, work. Have a client in Englewood. 😉 xoxoM
For your sake, I’m glad your client isn’t in JC.
It’s probably an easier commute for me to JC than it is for you! 😉 xoxoM
Great lemonade you’ve made with this post! Used to be, my husband and I would drive down to Seattle every six months just to remind ourselves why we don’t drive down to Seattle. Now only a medical emergency (or the prevention thereof) will induce me to venture there. I do appreciate the capacity for lemonade-making, but I also can’t help thinking … isn’t there a better way? And if not, why not?!? (I don’t mean for you personally — I mean for us as a society!) (P.S. If you ever get a gig eating waffles and need a sub, let me know.)
This commute of mine is especially jarring as I previously worked out of my house.
As for the waffle-eating thing, I have yet to receive a job offer. But you seem really nice, Virginia. If I ever get such a job, I will bring you on as my business partner. How’s that sound?
My commute is prolonged by at least an extra 3 minutes since they are finally fixing the bridge which means I am at the mercy of not one but two train tracks and possible train crossings and being A line double tracks, this could mean at least an extra ten minutes of waiting. Sheesh–some days my commute is a jarring 12 minutes.
Seriously–I could not endure the highway to double hockey sticks thingy you’re doing. You must really, really like this new gig, Mr. Mike.
It is always a good idea to pee beforw getting in the car if there is even the slightest possibility of getting stuck!
I do pee before I drive. But the commute is so long, my bladder refills!
Never tease a person about his commute, Cricket. It is too, too cruel.
Tease? I was trying to commiserate. I have been known to spontaneously combust in traffic jams. A ten minute commute is all I can handle. You obviously have a quantum more tenacity than I. Is this the new job that required you to assemble an office?
My apologies. I thought your 12-minute commute line was a smug boast.
And, yes, this is the job where I was presented with an empty room and asked to put out a magazine.
A bit like the Miller’s daughter? Instead of spinning gold you spin tales?
Yes. I work for a New Jersey Rumplestiltskin.
It’s your fault! I’m sitting here in CA (visiting and soon ordering sprout pizza) sipping a cup of tea and reading your new post and suddenly get hit with a burst of laughter that has now spread lemony tea all over my laptop.
Thanks a lot.
You have the kind of sense of humor that tickles my funny bone in all the right places. Humor-driven angst. Hits the spot every time. I know EXACTLY where you’re talking about. I’ve been making trips from NE to DE to visit my mom, and I get diverted by my GPS to these places. I think she (my gps narrator, Suzie) just wants me to see the graffiti.
Making people do spit takes is one of my favorite things. Especially when you spit on a sprouty pizza. (In future, please keep a slice nearby before reading my posts.)
And hold on; you’re going to DE without stopping in NJ on the way to pay me a visit? For shame!
One of these day…
Good to hear. I’ll even buy you a cup of that God-awful tea you drink.
I also commute into Jersey City, so I feel your pain (coming from Route 3 though). The worst part is the unfairness of people that use an exit lane or the shoulder to cut in front of a 15 minute backup (maybe they all have a genuine emergency though). At least there are some interesting murals/street art along 1&9. I also mean to take photos some day.
A fellow sufferer! Welcome!
And, yes, I’m sure you’re correct in assuming that everyone who rides the shoulder has a genuine emergency. The emergency is “I’m tired of not moving.”
And yet another reason to plan a wonderful vacation to Muskoka in the summer of 2018!! (we are sold out this summer) I’d make you pinky swear but we would have to have ridiculously long pinkies. :O
Now my mind is filled with images of freakishly long pinkies. Nightmare fuel, that.
I have not forgotten Muskoka. It shall be so someday. I promise.
I’m holding you to that promise! Maybe we can do a joint book signing. 😀
I would loooove that!
These were all great. Way to make use of the rambling musings of your mind. This one was my favorite: Last week I watched a car slam into the rear end of a tow truck, which, as far as car accidents go, is pretty convenient.
And please remember to pee before you leave work next time.
I do pee before I go to work. The problem is that my commute is so ding dang long, by bladder refills before I get there! (Hm. I wonder if the prison has a visitor restroom…)
Haha. And morning coffee makes that whole bit harder, I’m sure.
Oh, Lordy, yes.
Don’t drop the paper…
Don’t worry – at some point, I think you’ll end up reaching an enlightened state of mind whilst commuting to work. Zen you’ll be at your destination. 😉
I see what you did there.
I’ll have you know that if it wasn’t for you and Cricket, this blog would be a pun-free zone.
I totally get how “it’s easy to forget God exists on Route 9”. Here we call it the 401. It is some kind of hell! So bad that they have created a TV show about it. It’s called, “Heavy Rescue: 401”. We don’t even get to look at cool graffiti on that one.
Really? A TV show about Canadian traffic?
Yes. It is a horror show.
I am intrigued. I will have to search out clips on YouTube.
Perhaps my tips would interest you
I’ll head on over, good sir.
I don’t think I could handle it, Mike. Where I live, I can drive for an hour and not pass one single car. Of course, you can also disappear over the edge of the road and never be found. 😀
Ugh! Worst thing ever. Going slow and being trapped in traffic. If I plan on it being that way, it does help.
Had to laugh at envying the prisoners. In that moment, it does seem like they are the ones who have it made.
Also had to giggle at everyone telling you to use the bathroom before you leave for work. Maybe one of those portable urinals.
And VEW DISTO? https://www.pinterest.com/pin/474918723189929151/
Is this what it looks like?
I sometimes use the commute time to pray. So the God billboard would be a reminder for that. :-))
Loved the post Mike!
Your post makes a argument for good public transportation! Hey, I just wrote an email commending you for the great looking magazine in my mailbox this week. Which I would have said even without the yuuuge box of me in it. Hope you are well and not having a bad commute.
Oh, Lois, it was such a pleasure to write about you in the last issue of NJCU Magazine. I’m also glad to hear you liked the issue as a whole.
My commute has much improved, but I don’t think you’ll be happy to hear why. I have, with a little bitteresweetness, decided to say goodbye to NJCU and return to freelance writing. It’s a much better fit for me. So my commute is now a single flight of stairs, which I can manage even without my morning cuppa coffee.
I’ve read ahead and I know this job is now toast, which I think is great because the traffic would have killed my spirit – glad it didn’t kill yours and you could see the humor in a car vs. tow truck accident. This is why I’ll never leave Maine. Traffic.
Ah, Maine. I’ve heard lovely things, but have never visited. One day…
It is a lovely place, Mike. We keep the population down with dreadful winters, which I praise God for, since it keeps our traffic jams to a minimum. Southern Maine is more like the ‘big city’ and it’s fun to visit but where I live in Eastern Maine it is the best! I’m 45 minutes from the ocean, live on a tidal river that is gorgeous, and have all the amenities. I’ve got a spare bedroom. You and Ellen can come visit anytime! Well, except for when the grandsons are here. They get very cranky when we give ‘their’ room away.