I promised myself I would never write this. I really did. Oh, sure, I let The Hub do a rant about getting chained to a bench for a parking ticket, but he was a guest blogger, so I could do a legal disclaimer (“the opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect yada yada”).
In truth, Jersey is much maligned in New York City, but there are lots of advantages to be had Way Out West in Jersey (listen to the song here). So, before I start to froth at the mouth, let’s take a deep breath and list some of the pluses.
- Fine food carts. You can obtain some very good food cart chow, and the price is right.
- Rents are cheap! Er. Rents are cheaper.
- You get to look at Manhattan. There are often wonderful skyline views to be had for a song.
- It’s easier to evacuate from a hurricane – you can, in theory, just drive west. Of course, in practice…what with the traffic and all…
- It’s cheaper and easier to rent a car in Jersey. On the downside, you’ll need a car to get to the rental locations.
- There’s more elbow room – in movie theaters, in restaurants, in spas and health clubs, and just about everywhere.
- The ferry rides from Jersey to Manhattan are lots of fun!
- You can usually get a seat on a Path train.
- The Jersey Shore is nice in the summer.
- And last, but not least….um. OK. I’m done.
In my never-ending quest for personal fulfillment AND a living wage, I have recently taken a full-time job as a corporate drone (although my actual title is “data analyst”).
Since I’m a completely unapologetic data geek (“data is life; life is data”), I am delighted for the most part. My cube is based in Jersey City, which is totally do-able as far as commuting (A train to D train to Path train). It’s about the same as all my other commutes (A to 4 to Wall Street, for example). Getting to Jersey doubles my cost of commute, but at least I get a seat. So here I am, living in a Fool’s Paradise of lots of elbow room and a smooth Path Train ride. Until last Friday.
Last Friday, I decided to take advantage of being a corporate drone, and sneak out a wee bit early to see a movie with a friend. In Manhattan. Where I live. Off I go to the local Path station, which seems strangely crowded for early-ish on a Friday afternoon. It’s not even rush hour! As more people accumulate, the announcements start. These are automatically generated, I’m guessing from some kind of Free Voice Generator that the Path administrators are budgeting thousands of dollars annually for, and that is being paid for by Guess Who (me). The service announcement is now burned into my brain, as it was repeated every 3 minutes. “There are delays on the Hoboken to Journal Square and Journal Square to World Trade Center and Journal Square to 33rd Street due to car equipment.” Mentally, a generic female voice is still playing this over and over in my head even as I write.
A quick map-check allows me to deduce that, in fact, every line in the entire Path system is being affected. A more accurate announcement would have been “We don’t know when this will get fixed, but for now all Path Trains on all lines are going to be so crowded, slow, and unpleasant that you’ll wish you were dead” But no, “There are delays on the Hoboken to Journal Square and Journal Square to World Trade Center and Journal Square to 33rd Street trains due to car equipment” is what we got.
The best part of this statement, aside from it being functionally information-free, is that the voice generator can’t pronounce “Hoboken” (HOE-boken) and says “ho-BAAAA-ken” instead. This joke quickly wears thin, because it’s 30 minutes before a train shows up (so that’s 10 times I get to hear it).
The over packed train pulls me into its metallic interior with an audible sucking sound, sandwiching me like a slide of ham in an Egg McMuffin (sponsorship – where’s my advertising payola please?). We progress by exactly one stop, where the doors fly open, more people get on (hot and greasy, just like the aforementioned Egg McMuffin). Now, the doors won’t close, so it’s 10 minutes of being berated by the conductor over the train PA (“pull IN. We’re not going ANYWHERE. Check your BACKPACKS”) while also hearing the same automated announcement about car equipment and HoBAAAken booming out there on the platform before I can’t take it any longer, and decamp via a long, curving, low-ceilinged ramp to above ground. Dante himself couldn’t have been more pleased to finally see the light of day.
And like Dante, I have left the circles of Hell only to arrive in Purgatory. I’m pretty sure there’s a ferry around here somewhere close, but “close” is all relative in Jersey. An alarmed-looking smoker taking a break outside Starbucks directs me to “a short walk –
down there – you say the Path Trains aren’t running?” – but no ferry. It’s closed. Google Maps app helpfully confirms that this particular ferry stop is “permanently closed”. It then dawns on me that there aren’t very many public transportation options in Jersey. I knew it before, but now I’m living it.
Back to the Path Train I go. At least I’ve had a pleasant 20 minute walk along the waterfront, and my eyes are still tingling from the brisk 35-mph gusts of ice-crystals coming off the Hudson. People are coming and going from the maw of the Path train station…maybe the “car equipment” was fixed? I just missed a train, so that’s a good
sign, right? Wrong. 40 more minutes and I can’t take it anymore yet again. Back up the long ramp to the outside air, I gladly accept Uber’s outrageous surge pricing, and find the closest New York Waterways ferry, just across the river from the new World Trade Center that is beckoning in the sun. My Uber driver cheerfully suggests that I’m actually very lucky, because when everyone finds out the Path Trains are hosed, the ferries will become a nightmarish mob scene.
So now, I have memorized the nearest ferry landings. I have my Uber app at the ready. I’ve checked out the light rail system, I’ve downloaded the Waterways app, and I’m researching bus lines that go over other bridges and through other tunnels so that I’m not caught out again.
The one plan I don’t have is to move to New Jersey and buy a car.
To learn why, tune in next week, when my topic will be “Your Car: beloved modern convenience or metal deathbox on wheels?”