Monday, February 04, 2008

To everything, a Turnpike

My buddy from New Jersey once complained that everyone thinks of the Garden State as just a big turnpike. “It’s not all toll booths and smokestacks,” he said. I agreed, noting that there is also the Molly Pitcher Service Area, where one can rub elbows with one’s fellow motorists, especially and unfortunately if the men’s room is crowded.

While everyone knows full well that New Jersey is chock full of beautiful places, it’s hard to ignore the importance of the Turnpike. While my buddy deplores the NJTP as the unofficial mascot of his state, the first question he asks when he meets somebody else from New Jersey is, “What exit are you from?”

I thought of this last weekend, as my wife Kara and I drove through Jersey en route to a friend’s birthday party. Our GPS unit, Jill, kept trying to steer us onto the Turnpike, her voice growing irritated with our continued refusals to comply.

“Recalculating,” she’d say after we blew past one of her suggested routes. Determined to put us on the Turnpike, I swear her voice started sounding snippy. “My algorithms were programmed by a team of engineers with advanced degrees, but you probably know the better way. Knock yourself out.”

Jill doesn’t know how good she has it. Kara completely coddles her, refusing to leave her alone in the car even if we’ll be back in a minute.

“Babe, we can leave a window cracked,” I tell her.

“It’s so nobody steals it!” she says. Sure it is. I’m starting to worry that Kara is going to switch Jill’s voice to Bruce, the Australian male, and run off to Sydney with him, though he’d probably insist that they take the Turnpike.

As we drove through the state, I noticed that the “wipers on, lights on” rule is especially well-documented in New Jersey. These signs don’t do much for me in the way of a reminder, as Toyota no longer allows drivers the ability to turn their headlights off in the first place. My headlights, like Law and Order reruns, are always on.

I’m glad that this safety innovation took place after I got through high school, as sneaking back home at four in the morning with the headlights blazing through my parents’ bedroom window might have been an insurmountable challenge, though pushing the car up the driveway every Saturday night might have been a workout regimen that I could have actually stuck with.

Even with the “car on, lights on” policy, Toyota still gives you a headlight switch on the multifunction knob, which is basically the vehicular equivalent of a Neuticle, the silicon implants that fake a dog into thinking it hasn’t been neutered. The switch makes you feel like you still have all the old functions that you’re used to having, but that’s actually its only purpose. The rigging’s all there, but it’s not connected to the mast.

Incidentally, in researching this column, I discovered that a single large Neuticle costs $79. If you’re going to go that far, though, you might as well spring for the pair at $129. That’s a savings of $50 on the second Neuticle, which can then be applied to some desperately needed therapy.

Speaking of being stripped of one’s manhood, it amazes me still that I am still not allowed to operate a gas pump in New Jersey. That’s the one car-related thing I actually know how to do, and the state has taken it away from me. Next, it’s going to come into our houses and open all the pickle jars for us, rendering people like me completely useless. How does that law stay on the books? It must have something to do with the powerful orange reflector vest lobby.

You can push Mike Todd into your cranberry bog at


  1. I was just in New Jersey... it's the land of parkways, thruways and many other ways to total your car. My favorite is those short little on-ramps with stop signs or yield signs to ensure you have to go from stopped to 80 in a matter of feet, while vehicles fly by and swerve around you doing 120. Fun times.

  2. Funnygal -- Yo! Thanks for stopping by on my first installment of "Better Know a Turnpike." Tune in next week for the Nebraska Turnpike, if they have one.

  3. you know, if you ever get bored of doing turnpike stories, i know a couple of parkways that could totally use some attention.

    incidentally, i too have a similar navigation wench that sits on my dashboard, and she too gets so frustrated with me when i try to avoid 95. until i changed the setting to "avoid highways". now she tells me that it will take me 4.5 hours to get home.

  4. SJ -- Navigation wench - that's funny. Congrats on getting her to do your bidding. I forgot all about parkways. Now I'm set for material 'til Thanksgiving. Thanks!

    Cammy -- I know it sounds crazy, but I can honestly say that I've never heard of a higher quality prosthetic dog testicle.

  5. Dude, your arithmetic is of by 20.

  6. off, not of


  7. Dang, I did mess that up. We just can't have any accuracy in journalism around here, can we? Let's just pretend this column never existed, except for maybe the last paragraph.