Posted by Jo Robertson Nov 29 2011, 11:59 pm
Sometimes a Hundred-thirty-five Dollar Movie Is Just an Adventure.
It isn’t often I get to chat up an aspiring author, and rarer still when that person is my daughter Kennan. My middle daughter, KK, has always been the one to see the upside of any situation, so when her husband took a teaching position at a private college in New Jersey, we wondered how she’d spin it!
For those of us who live in Suburbia, urban life can be a culture shock. Limited parking. Crowds of people twenty-four seven. Kids walk to school in snow and rain, because well, there’s no parking. Negotiating subways and cooking in galley kitchens.
Oh, and did I mention the parking situation?
I won’t even discuss the cockroaches, uh, Jerseyites call them “water bugs.” Yeah, sure. And I hear they have a bridge across the river in New York you can get really cheap.
Please welcome Kennan DeGruccio presenting one of the excerpts from her forthcoming untitled book about a suburban girl in an urban climate!
I’m so excited to be guest-blogging with the super-hot Bandidas! Thanks for allowing me the chance to share my urban adventures with you.
Life is Suburbia is easy. You drive your car to get to places. Trash usually goes in the garbage cans. Honking is minimal. Thus, we were shocked this Fall when we moved to Jersey City — a quick swim across the East River from Manhattan – where life is loud, bustling with energy, and filled with strange human beings. Plus people live in apartments, not houses. (See picture to right where we live six flights up!)
The positive spin on life in the city is the writing material. Every day I find stories about people and places that could fill another chapter of the book I’m writing in my head!
To illustrate: Saturday night’s $135 dollar movie.
The night began like many horror stories throughout time: with a decision to drive to Newark, New Jersey, instead of catching the subway to see a movie in Manhattan.
Newark it was (enter scary theme song). We could hop in the car instead of walk to the subway and fight for a seat. It would be like living in Suburbia again!
The movie was your average Matt-Damon-tries-to-save-a-world-in-peril-and-Gwyneth-Paltrow-does-a-great-seizure-scene-that-probably-won’t-win-any-oscar-nods flick.
We might have enjoyed it more were it not for the 30 movie-hopping teenagers laughing when the children in the movie died (spoiler alert: some children in this movie died) and the man next to me was eating fried chicken and playing a game on his cell phone.
Mike tried to defend the obnoxious teenagers until I found out he actually once peed in a movie theater. Then he lost all credibility.
But that was not the nightmare. That part came on the way home.
The conversation went like this:
Mike: “We should stop and get gas.”
Me: “We have 150 more miles before we run out of gas.”
Mike: “I’d just feel better if we stopped and got gas.”
Me: “No way. We don’t need gas.”
(Really, I was scared to stop and get gas in Newark. But I didn’t admit that until later.)
Mike: “How do you know we actually have 150 miles left since the gas gauge is broken?”
Me: “Because I pushed the odometer and I know how much is left.”
Mike: “Are you SURE you pushed the odometer? I don’t remember if either of us pushed the odometer…”
(Enter scary theme music again).
Car begins to sputter and pop and jerk and slow to about 20 mph.
On the 1 & 9 freeway.
On a two-lane bridge going over the Pasaic River.
The van manages to sputter to its death at the top of the hill, rather than the bottom, so that it is not blocking the on-ramp traffic. This is good news. But we quickly bolt out of it because cars are still speeding toward us at 80 mph.
People in New Jersey do not like slowing down for broken-down cars, or small cute animals, or human beings that might be in the middle of the road. They have very important places to go, apparently, even at midnight.
We attempted to direct traffic away from our car by flailing our arms frantically. In truth, I was not worried about someone smashing our car so much as causing a huge car pile-up.
I called 9-1-1 and was pleased to find out later that breaking down on the Pasaic River Bridge is actually considered an emergency. That eased my guilt. The cops didn’t show up for about 45 minutes. And even then, they were the Kearny cops and said they couldn’t do much for us because we were still technically in Newark. And that the Newark cops may or may not come at all.
Turns out Kearny cops don’t like Newark cops.
This is one of many city nuances we really need to keep learning about. They DID, however, call a tow truck for us. Which came an hour later (this might be hyperbole, but time moves slowly when you’re stuck on the freeway at 1 am on a Saturday night).
The tow truck guy was super friendly. He was happy to come in the middle of the night and tow our car.
Wait a minute, I’m getting that guy confused with the Indian Dunkin’ Donuts guy from the night before.
Never mind. The tow truck guy was an arse. There was a bottle of urine-colored liquid on the floor and he kept clenching his teeth when we accidentally blocked his view of the mirror, but at least there was plenty of heat in the truck.
In the end, he was just a guy who hates his job. I know this because he said, “I hate my job” as he was scratching our credit card number onto a 1980′s-style credit card machine for the $125 tow fee. After towing us to a gas station and realizing it was not the gas (I was secretly pleased that I was right), our friendly tow trucker took us to our parking lot in Jersey City.
When we told him we were from California, he said, “Why the hell did you move to Jersey?” I’m pretty sure he meant it, because he wasn’t smiling.
I asked him later if he had to work all night and he said “Yep.” I said, “I’m sorry.” He said “Why? You didn’t pick this job.”
Yet another miserable person living in the city.
Our car is now safe in the St. Peter’s College parking lot (the one six blocks from our apartment that we have to take a taxi cab just to pick up). We thought about using the now non-working car as a storage facility. Or an extra bed for guests when they come to visit.
We have no idea what is wrong with it or if the cost to repair it will be enough to start our own Not-for-Profit initiative, but now begins the great experiment of seeing how long we can live in the city without a car. Millions of people do it, right?
I lied to you before.
This horror story DOES have a happy ending. Of all those zooming cars that carelessly sped past us on the Pasaic River Bridge, only two gentlemen stopped to help us. They were young, friendly Arabs who happened to have flares in their car. They weren’t afraid to brave the on-coming traffic to set the flares for us for about 15 minutes. They stayed with us until we got word that the police were coming. They wouldn’t accept my offer to pay for the flares or their help.
I think it might be a beautiful world after all.
When we finally arrived home at 2 am, I shook the covers before I went to bed to check for water bugs (for those who aren’t aware, this is a fancy New Jersey term for cockroaches).
It’s a strange world we live in when we are more afraid of bugs than running out of gas in Newark, New Jersey.
Living in the city is harder than the suburbs, but it’s thrilling. I’d rather be thrilled and challenged every day than disinterested. When we had a lawn for the kids to play on, when I could drive to the grocery store rather than take the scooter, when the only sounds outside my window were birds rather than sirens, I was content.
But is it always good to be content? Doesn’t an artist create better within irony and discord? Isn’t it in our challenges that we find things to think and say about the universe? What do you think?
Have you had any moving challenges or “car troubles” that proved difficult?
Share your experiences because my mama is giving away an ebook of her soon-to-be released thriller “The Traitor” to one lucky commenter.