Travels to New Jersey

Travels to New Jersey

Making a shit-load of money has been on my TO DO list for a while and that is why I decided to travel to New Jersey to take a 3-day workshop on developing a millionaire mindset. I think it takes 7 years to kick in because the workshop was 6 years ago.

I did a little research because I wanted to ride a train and found that it would cost exactly the same to ride the train as it would to drive. I would have to drive to the Amtrak station in Johnstown and leave my car. I would take the Amtrak to Trenton and ride the New Jersey Transit to Ocean City. I would have to change trains on the New Jersey Transit.

I should have questioned my decision when I bought my ticket.

“Where are you heading, sir?”

“Trenton.”

“Trenton, New Jersey?”

“Yes”

She turned a microphone towards me and pulled out sheet of paper.

“Sir, do you understand that this conversation is being recorded?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“Do you agree to recording this conversation?”

“I suppose.”

“Please answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’”

“Yes. What are you doing?”

“It is Amtrak policy to read this document to all persons requesting a New Jersey destination. May I continue please.”

“Sure. Uh, yes.”

“As courtesy, Amtrak stops at several locations within the state of New Jersey. While you are free depart the train at any destination along this route, it is the official Amtrak policy to advise you against disembarking in New Jersey. Do you wish to depart the Amtrak train in New Jersey?”

“Uh, yes.”

“And you will be doing so of your own free will and not at the coercion of Amtrak or any Amtrak employee?”

“Yes.”

“And do you agree to hold blameless Amtrak for all physical, emotional and psychological injury contracted while visiting the state of New Jersey?”

“Yes.”

“Sign here, please.”

I did. And she sighed as she handed me my ticket. She didn’t cross herself, but I think she wanted to.

The Amtrak train was really cool. They had big comfortable seats, bigger than first class on a jumbo jet, with a picture window for viewing the country side. Each seat had an outlet for plugging in your laptop and other electronic gizmos. I brought a Gameboy with a Tomb Raider game but didn’t use it. I spent the time looking out the window.

The first really cool thing we passed was Horseshoe Curve. Basically it is a giant inclined plane in the shape of a horseshoe. The way they tell it, it was an engineering marvel that opened up the West to civilization. If it weren’t for Horseshoe Curve and the Pennsylvania Railroad, everyone west of the Appalachians would still be hunting beaver and drinking Redeye in dusty saloons.

I don’t buy it. Men everywhere are still hunting beavers.

We also passed through the Altoona Freight Yard and the Harrisburg Container Yard. But I understand these are only cool to foamers and model railroaders. You say you don’t know what a foamer is? A foamer is what railroad employees call people who stand around anxiously waiting for a train so they can see it and/or take pictures of it and get so excited they foam at the mouth. Foamers think it cool to be called a foamer because real railroaders made up that name to describe them.

Now I know that some of you from time to time while reading this blog have asked yourself, “Is there anything this guy can’t do?”

The answer is yes. I can’t make love standing in a hammock.

Well, on this train ride I found something else I can’t do. I cannot read the load limit markings on the cars of a speeding westbound freight train from less than three feet away from inside the windows of an eastbound Amtrak. But I have not completely given up, there’s a possibility that I can recall those numbers using hypnotherapy.

When I got into Philadelphia, our train disconnected our diesel engine and hooked up a whisper quiet electric engine. We then proceeded to back into New Jersey in Stealth Mode. I asked the conductor about this and he looked me in the eye. “Do you really want to be seen going into New Jersey?” Evidently if you back into New Jersey everyone thinks you are leaving. When we backed out several days later, I asked again. He said, “Philadelphia is worried about,” and put up two fingers in each hand and dipped them twice, “‘the immigrant problem.'” By then, after four days in New Jersey, I knew what he meant.

I got off the Amtrak and bought my ticket and boarded the New Jersey Transit train. One ran every eight minutes from Trenton to New York. Everything Amtrak was, the New Jersey Transit was not. I had a more comfortable seat on the chicken bus I rode from Puerto Marques to Nogalas.

It took me a while to figure out the New Jersey Transit System’s way of doing things. It seems that, over the intercom, every station from Trenton to New York is named Shrrriiick: Brant Branr Bra Brank Bra: Shrrick. I knew I had to get off at my Shrrriiick: Brant Branr Bra Brank Bra :Shrrick so I started looking for clues as to how to figure out which stop mine was going to be. Then I noticed that everyone got tickets punched by the conductor and that specific numbers were punched. Mine was punched #4, conductor code for Shrrriiick: Brant Branr Bra Brank Bra :Shrrick #9, which I figured out by reading the station sign as I got off the train. Further investigation showed that my stop was 9 stops going out from Trenton and 5 stops short of New York. Punching #4 made perfect sense.

I got out at Shrrriiick: Brant Branr Bra Brank Bra :Shrrick #9 and had to cross under the tracks to get to the other side of the station. It was cold out, about 30 degrees with a nasty 40 mph wind. I looked at the posted schedules. There were five copies of the schedule of the train I did not want to ride and only one of the one I needed to take–and it listed only the schedule of the train running in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go. Later I found out that the schedule of trains running the direction I wanted was on the opposite side of the station, where the trains ran the other way. The system makes sense once you understand it.

What the locals do is wait outside in the wind for the train. It’s a game kinda like the arcade game Whack-a-Mole where the mole pops up out one of 12 holes and you try to hit it with a plastic hammer. Only in the NJ Transit game you have a train of 15 cars and you have to run to the location of the car where the conductor pops out and ask him where the train is going. To which he answers, “Your train is right behind us. Just wait right there.” Now depending atmospheric conditions, solar flares and the Earth’s rotation this can mean:

9 trains back and an hour and 36 minutes later,
8 trains back and an hour and 22 minutes later,
7 trains back and an hour and 7 minutes later,
and so on.

Remember I told you this system makes sense? When you can’t feel your feet and you just spent an hour and 45 minutes standing behind a pole to cut as much of the wind as you can, you really don’t care what kind of crap-hole train you get into as long as you are out of the wind. This is called Spinning Your Public Image.

Now I was fully briefed about New Jersey. I knew people you come in contact with are going to greet you with:

Howya Doin?

To which the proper response is

Ahm doin gud.

I knew all this, but I Assssummmmed it was like the ever popular Wazzzup–wazzzup interplay (or for you Californians, dude-dude.) But Jersey has taken this exchange to a whole new level.

The following is a real conversation, edited for content and language, plus the fact that I didn’t get the names exactly right.

I got into a cab.

“Howya Doin?”

“Fine fine.”

[dead air]

“Howya Doin?”

“Pretty good. Pretty Good.”

[more dead air]

“How YA DOIN?”

“Ahm doing good.”

The driver, finally satisfied that I got the password/countersign right, put the car in gear. I later found out that to enter any conversation topic or engage in any action you have to complete the password-countersign ritual.

“Howya Doin?”

“Ahm doin gud.”

“Ya know your hotel used to be a Ramada Inn. Then it was bought out by Sheridan. The Mariott bought it but sold it when they moved downtown a mile or so. Turned it into a Residence Inn. Put a frigerator in the room and charge two hundred fricking dollars–and you have to rent for three months at a time. But they closed down when the Tagliattis built their hotel and all the other hotels went away. They were the only hotel by the racetrack and you have to stay there. Ya know what I mean?”

“Uh yeah.”

“Howya Doin?” Signifying subject change.

“Ahm doin gud.”.I was getting good at this.

“See that building. Used to be a Dairy Queen. All the kids used to get their ice cream there. Now it’s a frickin’ funeral home. Bugalari bought it for his kid when he graduated from high school and turned it into a funeral home. Imagine givin’ your kid a funeral home. At least they could use the frigerators. And the kids, the kids would come down for an ice cream and find a frickin’ funeral home.”

Evidently this problem lasted several years.

“Howya Doin?”

“Ahm doin gud”

“Ya hear what Amtrak did? They shut down all the tracks goin’ into the city. Didn’t tell nobodys. Just announced it was closed at six in the morning. They were trying to strike and the governor says they can’t do it. They already get $30 frickin dollars an hour for Christsakes. And they want benefits and retirement. You get either benefits or retirement. You don’t get both these days. They were sending him a message. Didn’t tell nobodys and just shut it all down. And all the mothers and their kids stuck out in the cold… That’ll be five dollars.”

I tipped him two dollars for value added.

I managed to get out of there as we backed our way into Philadelphia. Doc said it would take a week to re-acclimate from a four-day stay in New Jersey. Ha, I did it in six days. I did lose all desire to see hypnotherapist about recovering the load limits on the passing freight cars. I was afraid of what else might come up.

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