Going through hell to get a license to drive in Hell

If you’re going to have a Web site that lists inaccurate and incomplete information, why have one at all? That question can easily be directed to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission after what should have been a simple (albeit long overdue) trip to exchange my New York driver’s license for a New Jersey driver’s license turned into three trips, one-and-a-half wasted days, and a keg of aggravation.


According to the wonderful state of New Jersey, there is a six-point ID verification process for obtaining a driver’s license. I completely understand this and have zero objections. Running the risk of granting official credentials to a terrorist would be foolhardy. However, people consult this list so that they bring the proper documents to the Motor Vehicle Commission and make the trip only once, so shouldn’t the list be accurate and specific?

More and more people are switching to electronic billing to pay for their utilities. It’s more efficient, and it helps the environment by not creating unnecessary paper documents. If you choose not to accept electronic bills as proof of residence, shouldn’t you mention that somewhere on your Web site? I don’t have a problem with the policy. I have a problem with not having a clue, despite consulting the Web site, and being turned away after showing up with a document that satisfied the published criteria. The woman I spoke with said, “It happens all the time.” Well, there’s a reason for that. There is not one word on the Web site that indicated that electronic bills are unacceptable. Thanks for wasting my Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, my landlord was kind enough to meet me at his office, prior to leaving for vacation, to print out a copy of the lease for our apartment. A lease is also on the list of one-point documents that satisfy the proof-of-residence requirement. However, as I found out Tuesday, on my second trip to the Jersey City office of the Motor Vehicle Commission, if the lease was signed more than 60 days ago, it doesn’t qualify. Again, there is not a single word about this restriction anywhere on the Web site. I wouldn’t have even attempted to use the lease had I known it wouldn’t be accepted. This marked my second wasted trip to Jersey City.

Fortunately, the supervisor I spoke with was very helpful and made some suggestions that would enable me to complete the torturous task of getting a driver’s license on that day, rather than wasting time on another day. I was able to get PSE&G to print out my bill, along with an official stamp, and I was also able to locate some tax-related documents that were sent to my address, so on trip No. 3, I emerged with a New Jersey driver’s license. But it should not have taken three trips. As I said at the start of this blog, if you’re going to have a Web site that lists inaccurate and incomplete information, why have one at all?

Then again, based on how useful the road signs in New Jersey tend to be, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that the Motor Vehicle Commission’s site was equally useful (read: useless).

On a humorous side note, the helpful supervisor (in a rare occurrence, no sarcasm from me whatsoever — he truly was helpful) suggested PSE&G and directed me to its office in the Journal Square transportation complex. What a freaking nightmare. It was packed when I walked in, and I took a ticket with No. 11 on it, only to look up at the screen and see that No. 54 was being served. When 10 minutes had passed and No. 56 was being served, I got the hell out of there and went several blocks out of my way to PSEG’s Hoboken office, where I was in and out in three minutes. When I finally left the Motor Vehicle Commission with my driver’s license, about three-and-a-half hours after leaving the Journal Square PSE&G location, I peeked in out of curiosity to see what number they were up to and saw No. 24. I would have spent about three hours sitting there. Word of advice: Never, ever go to the Journal Square PSE&G office. Wow.

Anyway, after three trips and almost 10 hours of time spent, my story finally reached a happy ending (not THAT kind, you pervs!). I am now the proud (OK, probably not so proud) owner of a New Jersey driver’s license. As a result, I immediately forgot how to parallel park and use my turn signals, but I was suddenly enlightened as to the mystical ways of negotiating a traffic circle, a roundabout, a jughandle, or whatever you want to call those atrocities. Yay, me!


Good Morning, Mr. Tow Truck Driver!

Most people are not happy to see tow trucks, as it either means their car was parked illegally, leading to aggravation and expenses, or their car is dead or inoperable, also leading to aggravation and expenses. I was watching tow trucks all morning, right in my apartment building’s parking area, just outside of my window, and I was ecstatic.

Happy Tow Truck, Happy 9nine9!

Three cars were removed from my building’s parking area this morning. I normally cringe at the sight of someone’s car being towed, feeling sympathetic toward the car owners, but not this morning.

Our parking area has several assigned spots, but it also has an area in the back where parking is not allowed. Most people use it as emergency parking, for a short time, since parking here in Hoboken is God-awful and often nonexistent. I have absolutely no problem with this, and I’ve done it myself on occasion. But I don’t abuse it: I’ve been in this building about seven years, and I have probably put cars back there 10 times, including overnight twice.

The cars that were towed this morning, however, are owned by people who thoroughly abuse the privilege, for lack of a better word. Seeing the same cars parked illegally day after day after day really wears on my patience, especially when my wife and I are paying for a spot in a garage several blocks from here so we can keep both of our cars (we only have one spot in our building, and the odds of getting a second are negligible, as there are far fewer spots than units).

I really hope I’m fortunate enough to be near the window when these people come home to discover their vehicles gone. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a lengthy, evil cackle.

My only regret is that this action wasn’t taken two months ago, before a former tenant left the building. This former tenant apparently believed that being a rabbi also made him lord and master of the parking area, as he had one spot, but his second car was parked illegally anywhere from 20-25 days per month, and he often had a third vehicle back there, too. I don’t miss having him and his 26 kids in the building, but the look on his face upon realizing that his car was gone would have been priceless. And had it happened on a Friday, like today, he would have had to wait until sundown Saturday to even do anything about it!

Yes, I am evil, and I am culling far too much enjoyment from the misery of others. But this should have happened months ago, and I’m glad we’re not shelling out the cash for a second spot for no reason whatsoever, which sometimes felt like the case.

Give some people an inch, and they take a mile.

Dodging furniture on the New Jersey Turnpike

Is it weird that while facing a split-second, near-death moment last night (no exaggeration whatsoever), I was laughing? No lie: Here’s what happened.

Not too far off

I was driving southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike, traveling 75-80 miles per hour in the left-hand lane, when a pickup truck with some highly unstable cargo entered the lane in front of me, also reaching about 80 MPH. The two turd-for-brains rejects driving the pickup apparently thought that wedging a love seat and two mattresses into the open back, with no bungee cords or rope, was a wise move. They were wrong.

I realized instantly that their cargo was perilous, at best, but I couldn’t get out of the left-hand lane due to the truck traffic in the middle lane. I slowed down a little, much to the dismay of the driver behind me, and that turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Suddenly, one of the mattresses came flying off the back of the pickup truck. Luckily, there was just enough room between trucks in the middle lane for me to slam on the gas pedal, cut off the trailing truck by less than a yard (again, no exaggeration), and avoid an accident.

The spilt-second I will never forget: I had my right eye on the rear-view mirror, praying that my aging 1997 Honda Accord had enough pickup to cut off a fast-moving truck. At the same time, my left eye saw a maroon love seat literally bounce past my car in the lane I had just vacated, narrowly missing my side-view mirror. And I was laughing throughout the entire experience, all of which probably lasted about five seconds, probably just to keep my sanity.

As for the car behind me, its driver was able to execute a similar life-saving move, using the shoulder on the left-hand side of the road, which worked out perfectly for both of us.

By the way, how idiotic do you have to be to jam a love seat and two mattresses into the back of a pickup, with no safety precautions whatsoever and nothing preventing the items from falling out? Even worse, how much of a dope do you have to be to do this while driving 80 MPH on the New Jersey Turnpike? The cat turds I cleaned out of my litter box this morning have more intelligence than these jackasses.

The stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me. I’m just glad I’m here in one piece typing this blog, instead of, well, I don’t even want to think about it.

Unemployment Nine: Huh?????????


I have vented many times in this space previously about how, with this horrific job market tilted completely toward those looking to hire and away from those looking to be hired, requirements in job listings are getting more and more ridiculous. And I found a great example of this today.

The following was listed among the requirements for a job that involved editing content for the Internet: “Applicant should be competent in operating a manual transmission automobile.”

Can someone please tell me what the fuck knowing how to drive a stick shift has to do with working on the Internet?

Wow, I seriously hate this job market more and more every day. Just when I think I’ve seen it all after nearly 21 months

Removable stereo? Check! Case full of cassettes? Check! Radar detector? Check!

A Facebook status update from my old college roommate, asking if anyone had a radar detector he could borrow, got me thinking about all of the crap I used to take with me on road trips in my old 1983 maroon Honda Accord, just for the car ride.

Removable car stereo

Removable car stereo

I lived in Manhattan back then and, although my neighborhood was safe, there was a methadone clinic right across the street from my building. I’m not even going to touch the debate over whether methadone clinics are an effective way to treat drug addictions. I will state one indisputable fact: Every time I took one of the dogs I used to take care of for an early morning walk, patients from the clinic, while awaiting its opening, were constantly walking around my neighborhood and peering into cars, and I had to steer the dogs around broken glass from car windows on several occasions. YOU do the math.

So one of my primary accessories for a drive of almost any length was my removable stereo, which was referred to at the time as a Benzi box. While today, the idea of carting a car stereo around with you seems ludicrous, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was actually quite common. The problem today is that there’s no point having a removable stereo, because any thief worth his salt will just steal your entire car, rendering your removable stereo pretty much useless.

Cassettes ... remember these?

Cassettes ... remember these?

Of course, I had to bring tapes for the stereo. I have always been a firm believer that New York-area radio stations absolutely suck, and I still find that to be true, so bringing my own music was a necessity. Obviously, there was no such thing as an iPod the size of a cigarette lighter that could hold the equivalent of several-hundred albums back then, so I always toted around a case of cassette tapes (CDs were just starting to become mainstream back then, and I didn’t have one of those newfangled CD players in my Accord). Looking back, could this have been any more inefficient?

Finally, let me go back to the device that spurred this entry in the first place. For a trip that involved any length of highway driving, I always brought a radar detector. I was never 100% sold that the contraption really worked, but it did, in all fairness, save me from at least two tickets that I can think of off the top of my head. Of course, you have to know how to use a radar detector, unlike one of my moron friends from college. After being tailed by a trooper for two miles, when he got pulled over, all he did was bitch that “this piece of shit doesn’t work!” Um, it’s a radar detector, not a police car detector. If your dumb ass didn’t see the cop behind you for two miles, no gadget on Earth can help you.

radar detector

radar detector

Let me wrap up with a shameless plug: My college roommate runs a spectacular Web site, Ownersite, which bills itself as “the Internet’s most comprehensive Web-based preventive-maintenance reminder and expense-tracking system.” If you own a car — even a maroon 1983 Honda Accord — you should check it out.

Stop the stupidity

STOP sign

STOP sign

Attention, drivers in and around Hoboken, N.J.: When you see the sign pictured on the right, it means exactly what it says. Why is this difficult? “Stop” means stop. Are you all that stupid?

“Stop” doesn’t mean head toward the intersection at 50 miles per hour on a residential block, lightly tap the brake and blow through it at about 40.

“Stop” doesn’t mean roll out into the middle of the intersection.

“Stop” doesn’t mean stop at the intersection and refuse to move until the closest oncoming car is somewhere around Netcong.

“Stop” means stop, check for oncoming traffic or pedestrians, and then proceed.

Seriously, is it really that hard?

Opening Day? Fail! Dinner at Waffle House? Win!

In my ongoing quest to take advantage of the free time I have due to being unemployed, I did something I’ve never done in my illustrious career as a baseball fan: I went to Yankees Opening Day on the road.

The good news is that I showed up. The bad news is that most of the Yankees didn’t.

Yankees and Orioles line up for Opening Day

Yankees and Orioles line up for Opening Day

The drive to Baltimore started in silence — one hour of silence, to be exact. It turns out that when I got the transmission fixed on my car, they obviously had to disconnect the battery. When the battery is disconnected, it activates an incredibly annoying security feature in my car stereo that requires inputting a five-digit code before it will work again. If three attempts are unsuccessful, the stereo locks up. My mechanic apparently tried three times, and the only way to unlock the stereo is to drive for one hour with the system on, so I had no tunes until I was nearly off the New Jersey Turnpike.

Lack of audio aside, I pretty much drove through car-wash-like sheets of rain for the entire trip, but on the bright side, there was very little traffic, as only a moron would drive from Hoboken to Baltimore for a baseball game in that kind of weather.

Weather.com was dead-on, though. It stopped raining literally seconds before I parked my car, and the precipitation held off, other than a half-hour shower right before game time, which delayed the start a bit.

My first stop was Pratt Street Ale House, an outstanding brewpub a couple of blocks from the ballpark. It used to be known as Wharf Rat. My visit there consisted of a pint of outstanding porter, a pint of decent stout, another pint of porter and some good-natured ribbing from Orioles fans, whom I affectionately refer to as Baltimorons.

Then I entered Oriole Park at Camden Yards and headed straight for Boog’s BBQ and the pit beef platter. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Orioles fans are lucky. Camden Yards was built just before suites and luxury boxes became the top priority for a ballpark. As impressed as I was with the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, frankly, I’d take Camden Yards over either one of them. Of course, neither of the New York ballparks has something like the warehouse building to work with, and, as I mentioned in my blog about Citi Field, the Yankees were trying to keep attributes of both previous renditions of Yankee Stadium prominent. But Camden Yards set the standard for the wave of new ballparks, and it’s still a special place to catch a ballgame.

My seats were also in a great area that has no counterpart in either New York stadium. It’s called club seating, but it’s nothing like the various clubs and suites in Yankee Stadium or Citi Field. For $50, I sat in the first row down the right field line — very decent vantage point — and had access to a climate-controlled indoor concourse area with various restaurants, bars and its own bathrooms. I first sat there on a 102-degree Sunday a few years ago, so I welcomed the air-conditioning break. Of course, Baltimore is going to be cheaper than New York, but neither the Yankees nor the Mets offer anything resembling this value.

Anyway, everything was great until the game started. CC Sabathia had nothing and the Yankees’ bullpen had even less. In a mirror image of too many games last season, the Yankees stranded 10 base runners and wasted numerous opportunities. Final score: Orioles 10, Yankees 5.

Dinner, Waffle House-style!

I figured I’d break up the three-hour-plus drive home with a stop for dinner, likely at one of the fast-food restaurants in a rest stop on I-95. Then, a stroke of genius occurred: WAFFLE HOUSE!

I absolutely love Waffle House and would probably weigh more than a circus elephant if there were any locations in New Jersey. In fact, the woman behind the counter told me the company explored expanding into the Garden State but didn’t do it because the way they clean their dishes doesn’t conform to New Jersey’s regulations. This made me sort of nervous, but it’s been more than 24 hours and I haven’t dropped dead yet.

After a waffle the size of a small pizza, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast, I bid goodbye to Maryland and headed back home, defeated but full.

Mmmm … Waffle House!

Waffle House

Waffle House