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My Not Fun Day

Goal – get from Los Angeles to a hotel in Piscataway, NJ where I’m going to be attending a friend’s daughter’s bat mitvah. Time door-to-door: 10 hours 30 minutes.

These days traveling by air is about as much fun as eating ground glass. The flight wasn’t the bad part – although it was a very restless plane. Maybe you have experienced a restless plane. It is when many passengers seem to have some sort of nervous disorder that forces them to get up, go into the overhead and get something, stand in the aisles, up and down, find a flight attendant…get something else out of the overhead compartment.

I was once on a flight I called the incontinence flight – I’ve never seen so many people have to pee so many times in 4 hours.
Anyway, the flight was ok although there were many people with overstuffed overhead bags who were determined to smush them into the too-small compartments. Those same people had to put their bags way behind their row – which made them very anxious. So anxious in fact that they got out of their seats while the plane was still taxiing to the gate so they could run back and get them before the masses rose. There is something disturbing about someone pulling down a suitcase over your head while they try to catch their balance as the plane brakes at the gate. Jerks.

Once off the plane, I had to navigate many hallways, an escalator down, another hallway, and escalator UP (huh?) then through a giant empty room, past baggage claim (I don’t check bags). All the while I’m looking for the rental car signs typically seen in modern-day airports….hmmm, but not in JFK International in NYC…


I was very confused. I wandered outside and looked at all the signs. Buses this way. Passenger pick up 1, 2, 3. Taxis. Not one single sign about rental cars or shuttle buses to rental cars.
I finally found a taxi dispatcher and asked him. Oh, you cross the street there, take the elevator up and get on the air train and go to the C stop.
Thank you. Now I’m starting to remember what it was like to live in NYC for 10 years. Annoying. Inconvenient. You get used to it when you’re there and accept it after a while. But after many years away, I’ve been spoiled by well-ordered airports with signage. And mind you, I travel quite a bit – in the recent past I have flown into Boston, Salt Lake City, Tampa, Houston, Las Vegas…easy as pie.
OK, so dragging my crap up to the train (mind you, I am wearing this stupid air cast on my foot after surgery), and I’m complaining to some random guy who looks half-heartedly Rastafarian about the lack of signs, and another preppie-looking guy gets on the elevator and says, “Oh there are phones in the terminal to call the rental cars.” I told him there most certainly are not. He said, oh yes there are. Well, he was just trying to be helpful. He finally said, Well actually I didn’t see any. But I know I’ve seen them in airports before. Gee, you think? So have I. Just not at JFK.
The sorta rasta dude gets to the sign in the middle of the train platform and calls out that I’m going to the right place, get off at station C.
Station C. There is a sign for Budget, which appears to point toward a bank of phones. I stare at them. I ask a woman who appeared to work there about getting to Budget. She pointed back about 10 feet to doors. They finally had a sign, but it sucked.
Now I wander out and there is all this construction (another thing I forgot about NYC – always under construction) and I have to walk a good distance to the rental place.
Hmm. Not a bad line. Only took about 15 minutes. I wander out to find my car. I can’t see anything that says space 28. It’s pitch dark can’t they put some freaking lights out here for god’s sake?! (That’s me losing my patience)
I finally yell to someone who appeared to work there: “Hey! Space 28?”
Oh on the other side of the row, you know the signs are facing away from you and have no correlation to the numbers on this side…silly me.
Exiting. Hmmm, the old guy at the gate says, the number doesn’t match up. Can you hand me your keys? I turn off the car and hand them to him, ready to make a break for it through the gate if he delays me much longer. He didn’t.
Then it’s happy freeway fun on worn roads, lanes closed with construction workers, get over to the right lane and as soon as you merge you have to get over three lanes to the left and merge, then get back over to the right and…HEY! They don’t let people in here, just like in Los Angeles!
But now I am on the straightaway heading toward the Verrazano Bridge, feeling all confident, but not cocky. No, I know better.
After paying the highway robbery toll of $9 to cross the bridge, I start looking for the Goethels Bridge to cross over to New Jersey. Voila! Wait – what did that sign say? Bridge closed from 9:30 pm to 5 am take alternate route? Huh?
Sheesh. It was actually more amusing than alarming. Red brake lights as cars pulled over and tried to figure out what to do. I mean, when you get to the point where you’re crossing water there aren’t a lot of “back roads.” I even saw groups of cars pulled over, people standing out there in the middle of nowhere talking, trying to figure out what the hell to do.
I called my roommie and she got online. I pulled out my map. We figured out this 440 South outer bridge crossing sign I was seeing was gonna work. I was thinking, if they put up a big sign that says “Detour” with arrows on it leading people to the “alternate route” rather than just vaguely suggesting an alternate route, that might be really helpful. I know I’ve seen those Detour signs in other places. They work really well.
I pulled back onto the road and moved on toward Jersey. Not so bad at that point. Moving right along. I need exit 8. There it is. OOOh, short exit, slam those brakes. Anyway…I follow my Google directions exactly. It takes me in a loop right back onto the freeway. That’s weird. I didn’t see a Radisson. I try again. Nope. That just isn’t working. Roomie to the rescue again. She goes right to the Radisson website and directs me. Suddenly I’m feeling we are very far from where we should be. She plugs it into mapquest.
“Oh, the map on the hotel site is wrong.”
Go figure. Such a surprise some dumb shit like that would happen tonight when things have been going so fucking smoothly.
She guides me back to the middle of nowhere (hey, most of NJ seems to be in the middle of nowhere) and I see the Radisson sign. Oh, I am sooo tired and relieved! It is almost over.
Cocky bitch. You’ll see…
Guy at the desk is weird. I mean weeeiiird. He tells me he sent out 2000 emails today and people are starting to write back but he doesn’t want to tell them too much about himself. I am not sure what this random, completely non-sequiturish comment means, and I send out major body language vibes: I don’t want to know.
He tries to show me what he emailed – god I hope he’s not going to try to multilevel market me or some bullshit like that cause right now I am so tired and frustrated I will likely drag him over the counter. He senses my simmering rage and says, “Oh you’re tired. I’m sure you want to just get to your room.” I force a smile to ackowledge his remarkable insight into my person at that moment.
He gives me key card. I pray, “Don’t be last room down long hallway. My foot hurts!”
I open the door with great expectations. What’s that smell? Paint? The bed is turned up on its side, leaning against the wall, trash on the floor. Clearly my planets are not just bad today. They have collided.
I hobble my way back down the hall, into the elevator, back down the hall into the lobby.
“I think you have made a mistake. That room is under construction.”
Weirdness fumbles about and gets me another room – then redeems himself by lugging my stuff up to the third floor to help me, even though, he explains, “There is no one else at the desk and if the phone rings, oh well.”
I didn’t care. Get me to my room.
Now we are in the present. I am in my very average room. But it has a sleep number bed and that is promising. Oh shit. Cocky again. I hope the thing doesn’t electrocute me.
Good night.

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