Scarlett’s Letter September 27, 2013

I’ve arrived at my hotel for the night, a Marriott, of course, at Newark Liberty International Airport. I like it here, I’ve been to this hotel before. As long as you make a point of eating at a “real” restaurant before arriving, this is not a bad place at all. Okay, so I’m an “Elite Member” with Marriott, so maybe I’m a bit biased and probably a little spoiled. As I sit in my 9th story room on the corner of the building with the curtains to both of my windows opened, I am enthralled with all the hustle and bustle surrounding me. Yet, I hear only the fan in my room. I can see three airplanes on final approach, beacons blazing, headed right for me, it seems. I hear nothing. Out my other window, I see one of the terminals and behind it, airplanes taking off every so many seconds. I hear no noise. Beyond the runway, off to the left, I can see the skyline of Manhattan, the Empire State is easy to pick out from the line up and all the lights sparkle like the sun on moving water. Of course I’d rather be THERE, in Manhattan, but as I have an early flight from HERE in the morning, this is where I’ll be. I can also see cars and trains and buses, all scurrying about on surface streets and elevated routes at several levels from my windows, yet, I hear nothing. This excites me. I like it here. Temporarily, of course.

For as much as I complain about New Jersey, other than jughandles, I actually rather like it. Well, we’ll include downtown Newark in the icky pile with all the  jughandles. But, for the most part, the suburbs of Newark that I’ve frequented are pretty nice, once you get off any of the several highways, the Interstate, the Turnpike or the Parkway that all criss-cross, intersect and merge and divide into and apart from each other. Repeatedly.

The people here are nice, once you get used to their general forthrightness and their accent, they are, for the most part, very accommodating and very pleasant. I still marvel at how a single syllable word anywhere else is four syllables here. It humors me. Maybe they’re all nice to me because I’m always smiling at them, and I’m always smiling at them because they talk funny.

I won’t say I’ve mastered driving here, by any stretch, but I get where I need to go and usually on time, though I do allow a little extra time for travel than I might otherwise. And it is comforting to know that the residents struggle with it nearly as much as I do. Traffic, routes and dialogue about driving occupied the first ten minutes of every morning before my class began. The weather was only mentioned once in four days, navigating Jersey style was discussed four times every day. I spoke with a nice young waiter at an Indian restaurant the other night, originally from Dubai, and he admitted that he has no idea where anything is in relation to other places. Being a backpacker, I usually have a fair grasp of direction anywhere I go, I orient myself  quickly. Here, I don’t know which way is which and since it takes twelve turns to execute a direction change, getting one’s bearings is next to impossible. I do know Interstate 80 runs east and west, but only because it originates on the west coast and ends up in Maryland. The young waiter from Dubai says he just follows directions and eventually gets where he needs to go. So do I. Thank goodness for my Nuvii, top of the line Nuvii, and worth every penny with lifetime updates and three-dimensional graphic lane assist with a split screen showing a graphic of the exit, a map with my route highlighted, and a diagram as to which of the several lanes I should be in when I exit. Only occasionally do I have a hard time glancing down and taking in all the information in time to execute the correct turn, merge, or lane change. The poor narrator, though, simply cannot narrate the turns, twists, and “jug handles” quickly enough, sometimes causing me to miss a turn or exit.  He will say something like, “take ramp right, now turn left, GET OFF ON THE RIGHT!” He yells, in rapid succession, with genuine and sincere alarm, perhaps even concern, for my navigational well-being. And not because I’m not following his directions, but because there are that many points of navigation in mere feet. No worries, if I miss the turn it only takes 57 additional turns to correct it.

Jughandles; to turn right to make a left hand turn or a U-Turn. Only here can a U-Turn be a two-mile detour. And I say I like this place? It’s what’s at the end of the navigational nightmare that makes it all worthwhile; amazing shopping venues and even amazinger restaurants. The only bad meal I had all week was at my hotel the night of my arrival, and I consented to it only because I was too tired to go anywhere else. I’d planned on driving to my clients’ office, to get an idea of where it was and what I was up against to navigate there in the morning. I figured I’d grab a nice meal while I was out. I turned on my Nuvii, plugged in my clients’ address and found they were immediately across the street from my hotel and I could walk. Which, by the way, from what I can tell, no one does around here. Since I didn’t have to leave the hotel to make a “dry run” to my clients’ office, I opted to stay in for dinner, too. I’ve had good food in hotels before, just not in Marriott’s. Seems like a missed opportunity J.W.

It is a nice place to relax and just take in the activity outside my picture windows. My only agenda for the night; to write, to relax, to charge all my devices and to kill this last bottle of wine so I don’t have to schlep it home. It won’t fit, anyway. You recall my mention of those fab shopping venues, right? Oh. Yes. I did.

Driving in New Jersey leaves me completely and totally directionally challenged.
Driving in New Jersey leaves me completely and totally directionally challenged.


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