Nine in the suburbs: How to drive in Basking Ridge


Average Basking Ridge driver, give or take a denture

We moved from Hoboken, N.J., to Basking Ridge, N.J., at the end of August 2012, and the adjustments have been plentiful, particularly for yours truly, a lifelong city dweller experiencing the suburbs for the first time.

One of the biggest differences between the New York metropolitan area (obviously including Hoboken, but I grew up in Manhattan) and Basking Ridge is the way people drive. To put it simply, people in the immediate area around the city drive like assholes, while people out here drive like pussies.

After one year and a few months out here, I have put together a set of rules for how to drive if you want to fit in with the norm here in Basking Ridge:

  • The speed limit is merely a suggestion for the pace you should maintain in the case of unusual events, such as having to take an enormous shit, or transporting a woman in labor. In normal circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to drive 15 miles per hour under the speed limit, or maybe 10 MPH, if you’re feeling exceptionally spry, but don’t get carried away. Remember, if the sign says “Speed Limit: 40,” 25 MPH will suffice.
  • The newer your car is, and the larger the price tag is, the slower you should drive. Despite the fact that safety is built into the exorbitant costs of your vehicle, you can’t be too careful. I recommend a top speed of 25 MPH, and whatever you do, don’t let that high rate of horsepower tempt you. Horsepower is the bait used by Satan.
  • When making a turn, it is best to come to a complete stop, and not simply glide into the turn. You wouldn’t want your $75,000 Audi to end up on its side like a rickshaw, would you? The people behind you will understand.
  • When stopped at a stop sign, the safest policy is to remain there until no car is visible in either direction, no matter how long that takes. The mail truck may be a half-mile down the road, but as long as you can see it, it represents a clear and present danger, and it must be avoided at all costs.
  • By no means should you ever flick your brights off, no matter how many cars are oncoming or directly in front of you. Being able to see is half the battle! Take solace in the fact that if a blinded driver smashes into you head-on, the insurance company will probably declare that driver at fault, and not you.

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” — George Carlin, R.I.P.

Pre-moving mixed emotions

I am now smack in the middle of the most frustrating period of our impending move from Hoboken to Basking Ridge, two very different New Jersey destinations. On the one hand, time seems to be crawling, and on the other hand, it feels like it’s accelerating out of control.

Less than one month …

This experience is new to me, as I have never been involved in the purchase of a home, having spent my entire life in rental properties. It is basically a two-month period between the point when the house was pretty much officially ours until the point when we actually move in, and the two months has seemed like forever.

It’s hard to contain my excitement about the new space, and as much as I want to get started on buying things and laying out areas like my office, there’s so much we can’t do until the walk-through at the end of the month. We need to find out if things like shelving in the storage area are staying in the house or going with its previous owner. And even though we took measurements of all the rooms, there are certain things we can’t really buy or order until physically being in the house. I still don’t have a desk, and I work from home.

Plus, there are certain things that I just couldn’t do that far in advance. For example, I am embracing our upcoming switch from horse shit Cablevision to Verizon FiOS, but I had to wait until the other day to set it up because I couldn’t get an appointment as far in advance as the day after we move in. The same is true for things like magazine subscriptions, which I hope to begin taking care of this week.

On the other hand, there are so many things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go before leaving Hoboken, and all of a sudden, time is short. For example, there are three beer gardens in the immediate area that I must say farewell to, including Pier 13, which I haven’t been to yet, so it will be a hello and a goodbye.

A prevailing theme on Facebook today was surprise at the fact that it’s August already, and, as I said in my status update, it hit me even harder because I will be a resident of an entirely different place when this month comes to a close.

Having a baby in the family doesn’t necessarily have to mean an end to everything fun that we liked to do beforehand, but it also makes things more complicated. It’s not like Mrs. 9 and I are going to strap 0.9 into his car seat on some random weekday night and drive into Hoboken for dinner. It’s all about picking your spots, which we’re still learning to do. We’re new at this. It hasn’t quite been four months. There are so many things I want to do between now and Aug. 30, when the moving truck pulls up to the front of our building, and I know I will never get to all of them.

Although I am 100% confident we are making the right move, if I needed a sign, I got one today, when my neighbor knocked on my door to tell me that a car had been broken into in the parking area of our building. This is the first time I have heard of this happening in my nine years or so here, and it’s a little disturbing. By no means do I believe Basking Ridge is a crime-free utopia, as no such place exists, but I’d like to think our car will be a lot safer in our own garage, instead of in a building’s parking area where the door is constantly being left unlocked, or the lock is constantly broken.

My emotions are very mixed right now. As much as I can’t wait to open the door to our new house for the very first time, I almost wish I had a little more time here in Hoboken. But you can’t have everything, I suppose.

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?

Unemployment Nine: Check engine

OK, I really don’t need this right now.

While on a very quick errand to BJ’s yesterday to fetch a case of G2 — the low-calorie Gatorade, which has become as prominent in my blood stream as Guinness and Jack Daniel’s — the “check engine” light in my car flickered on and stayed on.

Check Engine

Check Engine

First of all, as anyone who looks at this blog can see, I’m unemployed right now.

Second, I already had my big car expense for 2008 in March, as the result of an unsuccessful scuffle with a gigantic pothole in February. I fought the pothole and the pothole won.

On the bright side, everything about the car felt the same. I drove the car for a little while just to complete my errands and get home, paying very close attention to its performance, and there was no difference.

So I am seriously hoping that whatever caused the check engine light to go on is minor, because I really can’t deal with a major expense right now. If my mechanic calls with some really bad news, the next light to go on might be “check pulse” or “check blood/alcohol level,” depending on whether or not I pass out on the way to the liquor cabinet.

At peace

My strife over the big decision on my car is over. I picked up my trusty merlot-colored Accord Friday, and it looks absolutely beautiful.

I know it sounds cliché, but the car really looks like it just came out of a showroom, which isn’t easy to pull off with an 11-year-old vehicle.

The car’s running great (which has nothing whatsoever to do with the body work, but just saying), and replacing the tacky, horrendous gold trim with normal chrome trim did wonders for its appearance.

Another good result: I’m being extra careful with the car now. Seeing the car looking this good is incentive to keep it that way. I’ll never be one of those obsessive-compulsive people who springs out of his car with a cloth every time a drop of water hits it, but I’m really going to make an effort to keep my ride in tip-top shape.

Thanks to all who chimed in with advice. Viva la Honda!

Am I making a huge mistake?

I currently drive a 1997 Honda Accord with a little over 102,000 miles on it. After recently spending nearly $900 on the car last month due to an encounter with Pothole-Zilla, I’m on the verge of doing something even crazier.

I’ve had the car about six years and, as time has passed, I’m more and more convinced that it was in an accident of some sort and was repainted. What started out as a small sun spot on my roof spread like a virus. And the paint is starting to peel on other parts of the car.

The person who previously owned it clearly had no taste, as they had a chance to change the car’s color and elected not to do so. The previous owner clearly was not of the Caucasian persuasion, either, as the car is dark purple with gold trim. I, however, prefer to call it merlot.

Anyway, a body shop that I’ve brought cars to for years is closing at the end of the month, so I decided to bring my car in and let them have at it before they shuttered their doors.

Bottom line: I am about to spend $3,500 on an 11-year-old car with 102,000-plus miles on it. The plus side is that they do great work and it will look like it came out of a showroom. The minus side? Duh! $3,500!

Am I crazy for doing this? Part of my motivation is that with the way the car looked, I would have been lucky to get $500 for it on a trade-in. Now, at least, if I can get through one more year with it, I should be able to get something half-decent back. Plus, it would be nice for the ego to look like I have a newer car, even though it is what it is.

The car runs well and always has. However, as I said, it’s 11 years old, so performance will inevitably deteriorate, as will parts.

But I really can’t afford a new (and by “new,” I really mean “decent used”) car right now.

So I guess I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and hope I didn’t chase bad money, to steal an expression from the gambling world.