Friday, February 17, 2012

Driving Miss Jersey

January 2012

We have learned, through our own experiences and hearing the experiences of other missionaries, that driving in Jersey is different from driving in Utah or Idaho. Having lived in Virginia and Maryland for all of those years we suspected that this would be the case; however, there are some elements that we did not anticipate, which are described below:

Jersey Straight – this is really an ironical statement because there are no straight roads in Jersey. When the GPS (ours is named Esmeralda or Ezzie for short) says go straight she means it in very relative terms, i.e., follow the road even though it curves. (See Jersey Tack Below)

Jersey Nudge – we have not actually witnessed this but have received confirmation of its existence from very reliable witnesses. If the potential parking spot that you have finally found is a foot or so too short, then using your car as a wedge and giving alternative gentle nudges to the car in front and the car in back will increase the size of the potential parking space so that you can actually park; whereas, before, there appeared to be no place to park.

Jersey Kiss – the little love tap received from the car behind you while you are stopped at a stop light.

Jersey Creep – not talking about an individual – however, this is accomplished by brazenly inching into any tiny space that may appear in bumper-to-bumper traffic and thereby forcing the creation of a space where none had previously existed. This maneuver is actually honored by other drivers and seems to be regarded as a reasonable way to change lanes.

Jersey Jug Handle – this is a device apparently created by traffic engineers to eliminate direct left-hand turns from major thoroughfares. Like a spiral staircase, it is hard to describe without using your hands. Nonetheless, imagine approaching a street where you need to make a left-hand turn, which has a “No Left Turn” sign in red letters. To accomplish the turn you actually take an exit lane to the right and then loop back to the left so that you are now in a position to cross the highway from which you just turned and go on your merry way. The same device is also used to accomplish a U-turn so that you can head back in the same direction from which you came; naturally, you will be on the other side of the road. On a map, the loop looks like a handle on a jug – hence the name.

Jersey Tack – among sailors, tacking is known as a way in which you can travel into the wind with a sailboat. In Jersey, to get from point A to point B, tacking is accomplished simply by following the roads. Some would call this zigzagging. The distance may be short “as the crow flies” but it will always be much longer using the roads. Virtually no road system is laid out on a grid here. Clearly, Brigham Young did not contribute to the development of Jersey roads. The road system is best understood by remembering that in some primitive past, before the use of the wheel, people followed game tracks through grasslands and woodlands on foot. They shared the same degree of directional freedom that animals have. Then, in the logic of human development, some of these paths became trails which in turn became roads. This is an understandable evolution; however, what works for 5 miles per hour does not work nearly so well for 30, and so on up the speed scale.

Jersey Pumps. New Jersey motorists who need to fill 'er up haven't pumped their own gas in about 63 years. The law prohibiting self-service was enacted in 1949 and has withstood several challenges. To the rest of the country, New Jersey's opposition to self-service may seem outdated; but, those who prefer having someone else pump gas say it makes common sense. "If I'm dressed up, I don’t want to get out and smell like a gas pump," says a local. In addition, disabled motorists and some geezers are interested in seeing the law survive. For those motorists with a disability, pumping gas is not an option and they depend on the employees of full-service stations. The purpose of these laws was to protect consumers and gas station owners from costly, and possibly deadly, accidents and insurance rates are lower for the gas stations. Better education and improved technology, however, have made pumping gas much safer and easier for consumers over the last 50-60 years. Eight hours of training are required of gas station attendants. Opponents of the law argue that removing it would lower the cost of gas and make refueling much quicker and more convenient. They also maintain that it is part of the “…Jersey identity, our own thing”. Proponents of the ban argue that it creates jobs and customers like full service. Estimates are that the service costs consumers about six cents per gallon. My own estimate is that it takes about twice as long as self-service. So we just relax in the comfort of our car while the gas station attendant does the dirty work.

1 comment:

  1. So funny! I have personally experienced the Jersey jug handles and the Jersey tack. I remember being home from college and driving up with Dan and some friends to spend New Years Eve in NYC. We had stopped in NJ and were trying to make a left turn, but passed intersection after intersection with No Left Turn signs before we figured out that you have to turn right to turn left. Of course.