No, your calendar isn’t defective: today is Saturday but here you are at the Funhouse. I hope you weren’t all waiting in line yesterday in eager anticipation of a trip through the Funhouse on its regularly scheduled day because I assure you, this little stop gap measure will not have been worth the wait. Unless, of course, you found some guy selling Whip-its in the parking lot in which case, no matter what I type here today, it will have been totally worth the wait.
Look at that cluster fuck of highway signs up there. Upon leaving Newark Airport, one immediately comes face to face with this virtual Tower of Babel of conflicting signage. This is where the Parkway and the Turnpike part ways as each of New Jersey’s toll roads announces that it will soon lead you to no less than 5 of the next most major thoroughfares in the state. If you branch off to the left, you will be on the Turnpike (referred to as I-95 in every other state on the eastern seaboard — free traveling from Florida to Maine except for the stretch that runs through NJ and charges astronomical tolls); veer to the right and you’ll be on the Parkway. As you can see, if you want to access Routes 1 and 9, you can choose either highway. The Parkway side gets a little more specific and tells you that the stretch of 1 and 9 accessed from the GSP will lead you to Route 22. It does not, however, advise whether the exit for 1 and 9 will take you in a southbound or northbound direction even though the fact that it’s 1 and 9 to Route 22 implies that you will only be able to get on the highway in one direction or the other. Now, those familiar with the area will of course understand that the left branch of the fork is northbound (although it claims to be eastbound) because it announces the Holland Tunnel which is one of the several ways to enter New York City from Jersey. The sign on the far right must be something the highway planners put there just to fuck with people. It points you to Route 21 towards Newark Airport — as you’re leaving Newark Airport (“Look, Kids! Big Ben! Parliament!”). Since you can’t travel more than 50 feet in New Jersey before coming to a toll plaza, this might just be a way of making hapless travelers circumnavigate the airport a few times to maximize how many times they’ll find themselves at the same toll booth paying once again for the privilege of circling the very airport they’re trying to leave. Again, “NJ Turnpike” and “I-95” are one and the same, so having both logos on one sign is unnecessarily confusing.
So we have 5 rapidly approaching exits — three to the right and two to the left, but as you’ll surmise from the multiple warnings that this is the “Last Exit Before Toll”, a toll plaza is coming up just around that bend in the highway. The plaza, of course, is shared at this one location by both the Parkway and the Turnpike. What this means is that one of the most congested traffic areas in the country suddenly comes to a 5-way crossroads, with approximately 6 lanes of travel converging at once, causing an utter free-for-all. The closer you get to the toll, the less marked become the lanes so that everyone spilling out from 2 major roads and the airport is simply attempting to shove themselves violently into the closest area to the exit they need to access. There is no foolproof art to this. When I lived here, I many times found myself with no choice but to get on a highway that goes in the opposite direction of my destination only to get off at the first accessible exit, pay another toll (of course) and make a U-turn to get back on course. Oh yeah, and everyone who lives in this part of New Jersey is angry. Very angry. Therefore, while one is attempting to navigate this mess, he or she is serenaded by blaring horns and a crescendo of obscenities through open windows.
This is just fucking insane, and I’m convinced it’s intentionally so. No ethical road planner would ever concoct such a shit storm of vehicular confusion. Honestly, the only reason I can even joke about this now is because holy fuck, am I glad I don’t live in this god-forsaken shit hole anymore!! Since I am now more like a tourist than a native to this state, I can happily take it all in like some sociological anomaly having no effect on me whatsoever. Kind of like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona; or an episode of The View.
Here’s some Jersey-style humor for the holidays from the brilliant
Linda Belcher John Roberts: