Jersey Driving

It’s Saturday night and I’m behind the wheel as my roommate and I travel down one of the most dangerous roads on Earth. Previous hard won experience has told me that If I take my eyes off this perilous road for a nanosecond, disaster will inevitably follow. No matter where I look, deranged individuals dedicated to spreading chaos and terror travel right alongside me. No, my roommate and I aren’t motoring down Highway Eight in Baghdad – we’re driving on Route 17 in Paramus, New Jersey.

For those of you unfamiliar with this twenty-seven mile stretch of state maintained asphalt, Route 17 starts out near Newark and ends up in Rockland County, New York. For most of it’s length it’s your average traffic laden Garden State eyesore. But when “17” hits Paramus, that’s when the real fun begins. With over one hundred retail stores and several shopping malls lining it’s route, the bad driving displayed on this three mile patch of highway strikes terror into the hearts of even the most experienced drivers. Because motorists are desperately scanning each side of the highway looking for a particular store in a sea of stores, they’re not paying attention to what they’re doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a car jump three lanes without signaling so they wouldn’t pass the entrance to Pier One or The Container store. God forbid if people should have to make a U-turn.

The worst offenders are, of course, the drivers with New York plates. New Jerseyites look upon their motoring New York brethren with a distaste bordering on outright hostility. If the Empire State plate holders are not Rockland County residents clogging our highways in search of cheap gas, they’re drivers from Manhattan, who, truth be told, should keep their cars the fuck out of my state. Because you can’t really drive in Manhattan, just crawl along at 5 MPH, the driving skills of Gotham’s residents inevitably atrophy from disuse. You can always spot the Manhattanite driving to the Paramus IKEA. They’re the heavily sweating people driving ZIP cars looking like they’re about to have a full blown panic attack. Do me a favor and spread your brand of incompetent driving to Long Island. Their driving’s not much better either.

We New Jersey drivers, on the other hand, all have black belts in the motoring arts. If you want to survive the Garden State’s mean streets you have forget all that defensive driving crap you learned in high school and become an offensive driver in every sense of the word. The moment an adolescent New Jerseyan gets his or her learning permit they automatically know how to speed, blow through yellow lights a millisecond before they turn red, dodge State Troopers, flip people the bird, thread the EZ-Pass tollbooth doing fifty, and bob and weave through traffic like a NASCAR driver. Manhattanites may look down their noses at us “bridge and tunnel” people, but when we drive in Manhattan it’s like throwing piranhas into a goldfish bowl. Even the taxi drivers fear us. And if you think I’m exaggerating, just talk to the governor of my fair state. He knows all about his constituents’ aggressive driving habits. And we wonder why have the highest auto insurance rates in the nation? Go figure.

My roommate and I are on Route 17 because we’re dumping our cable company’s overpriced and erratic internet and television service for the fiber optic system offered by Verizon FIOS. Instead of signing up for the service over the phone we’re traveling to that retail colossus known as the Garden State Plaza so we can deal with a live human being at the Verizon kiosk near JC Penny. If you deal with someone one the phone and they lie to you about pricing, well, you’re out of luck. But if you know where to find the living breathing person who sold you the plan, well, that makes things much easier to rectify when they go wrong. Of course, as we get into the entrance lane for the biggest retail mecca in North Jersey, the traffic slows to a crawl.

“Jesus,” I mutter, looking at the line of cars. “It’ll take twenty minutes to get a parking spot.”

“It could be worse,” my roommate replies. “We could have come here around Christmas.”

“Screw that,” I reply. “The only way I’d travel to the Garden State Plaza during the holidays would be in an Abrams.”

“What’s an Abrams?” my roommate asks.

“The main battle tank of the US Army.”

“Oh.”

Suddenly a beat up Chevy with New York plates tries cutting into line of cars waiting patiently to get into the mall. As he tries to wedge himself between my car and the Mercedes in front of me, I deter his effort in the normal profane New Jersey fashion. The driver, a pale sweaty looking fellow, starts gesticulating angrily in his car.

“I’ll bet you he lives in Manhattan.” I say, “Maybe Brooklyn.”

“Why do you say that?” my roommate asks.

“Look at all the dinks and scratches on his rear bumper. Scars from too many bad parallel parking jobs.”

“Ugh,” my roommate says, “When I lived in Inwood the parking spaces were so tight. It was murder.”

“Aren’t you glad you live in Jersey now?”

“At least I can park my car when I get home.”

The hapless driver of the Chevy reattempts his evil line cutting several car lengths ahead of me. He too is rebuffed by a New Jersey driver who employs some colorful hand signage as well as his horn.

“Man,” I mutter. “What I wouldn’t do for an Abrams tanks with a fifty caliber machine gun right now. Teach that guy a lesson.”

My roommate looks at be balefully. “I think you’ve been watching the Military Channel too much.”

“They better have that channel on FIOS or the deal’s off!” I shout.

“Oh brother.”

“What can I say? I love watching stuff get blown up.”

“You have problems.”

“Just let me shoot up cars like Jeremy Clarkson,” I growl. “That’ll make driving fun again.”


Comments

Jersey Driving — 129 Comments

  1. Oh yeah, NYC with it’s high rents, bad schools, deteriorating and more expensive public transportation, snobbery, and packed like sardines atmosphere – what’s not to love? And don’t tell me you have “culture.” I can be at the MoMa in 20 minutes using NJ Transit from my house in Bogota and have a cheaper mortgage and a place to park my car!

    Besides, when they evac Manhattan in an emergency, guess where you’re all going? Welcome to the Garden State! Don’t worry. You’ll get used to the smell.

  2. I live about a mile from Garden State Plaza and the 4/17 interchange. You’re right, our driver’s ed. teachers took us there for practice. But even I avoid the malls and 17 at this time of year. There are shortcuts and backroads you can take to keep from wanting to blow your brains out.

  3. Fuck all the NJ drivers, too. (Except you, dear Waiter!) Here in Florida, it’s not enough that Highway 19 carries drivers with a median age of 72, but we have to put up with lost, angry, arrogant NJ and NY drivers who know EVERYthing except how to use a blinker, get off the damn cell phone, and out of the left lane if they’re not passing slower traffic.

    I drove in Mexico City for five years, with nothing but a coat of paint between me and other drivers and NO ONE was stupid. Did the combi-bus drivers turn left from from the right-hand lane of six lanes? Yes, it’s the only way he can pick up passengers and keep on route. The Mexicans chill and keep moving. No stupid braking at the slightest bit of a disturbance. Brakes are the last resort. So in a city of 20 million, you had very good drivers and amazingly very few accidents in a comparative average with NY or SF.

  4. At least you can get the show so wonderfully called “Destroyed in Seconds.” Stuff blowing up, crashing and falling down with hear splitting Ka- boom. :)

  5. I was back on Long Island recently and you may just be right. After living in laid back Florida for nearly 10 years, the NY and NJ drivers scare the crap out of me. Sure we have the old people who take forever to back out of a spot, the crazy speeding teenagers and the just plain clueless drivers, but I think I would take them any day over the “get the hell out of my way” drivers in NY and NJ.
    I’m convinced, it has to be the weather that makes people cranky. Also, the southern people are so polite-they SMILE when they give you the finger instead of pointing a gun at you.

  6. The greater Washington, D.C. area isn’t much better. I’ve heard that we’re ranked second in traffic congestion only to Los Angeles.

    But, yeah, My last trip through NYC to Connecticut (via the G.W. Bridge) I did my best to make certain that I got on the N.Y. State Throughway before evening rush hour began. It didn’t matter, I still crawled along and couldn’t wait to get off of major roadways.

  7. Olympic Peninsula, Washington state: logging trucks, crazy elk herds, deer, coyotes, cougars chasing deer, mountains, two-lane roads, rockfalls, rain, black ice, and did I mention logging trucks? Other than that; nananana booboo!

    (As for Maui; tourists, locals, dirt roads, rockfalls, and everyone stopping to look at whales.)

  8. This is so funny – I like to think of it as trickle-down terror. My parents live in Lancaster County, PA and everyone there is terrified of NY AND NJ drivers – they are always astounded by things like cows, barns, horses and buggies, Amish, etc…

    When I was a kid, during the spring, our bus route was routinely held up by some out-of-stater ogling the scenery, stopped insolently in the middle of a tiny country lane. Once some guy with Jersey plates gave us the finger as we tried to make our way past him – after we had patiently waited for ten minutes for him to move. Classy.

    However, I never knew the true meaning of roadway terror until I started taking taxis in Buenos Aires. As Dave Barry once said of Boston drivers, they don’t even obey the laws of physics. I was in THREE minor accidents in the first six months.

  9. I’ve never commented before but you talking about Jeremy Clarkson set my heart aflutter. I utterly agree with shooting drivers as we go along.

  10. My husband is an over the road truck driver and he hates driving in NJ and in NYC. The traffic is insane. The drivers are rude. And the toll bridges and toll roads are ridiculously expensive for trucks. That money comes out of the truck drivers pocket until he delivers his load and hands in his paperwork. And the roads arent even well maintained!

  11. My favorite line in that whole Clarkson video is “I want more bigger stuff!”

    I’m not a car guy but I love Top Gear! Please, please don’t fuck it up and make an American version like they did with “Idol.”

  12. Dear Driver, I mean, Waiter – the last time I was on that stretch of road, there was black ice all over it. And it was midnight. And thank God I wasn’t driving.

    Learning to drive in Jersey is no mean feat. When I moved up here from the south nearly 30 years ago, I came home in tears every day.

    Oh well. Now I’m unemployed (laid off a month ago with 12 others in the company) and my commute takes me from the bedroom to the kitchen. Not much truck traffic here and the driver in front always signals.

  13. As a former resident of Manhattan,I have to put my 2 cents in and say that Jersey drivers can’t drive.As a pedestrian you risk your life stepping off a curb if an suv with Jersey plates is around,the rudest most selfish drivers in Manhattan.

  14. As a NY Driver who goes to school in PA, I’ve got to say, New Yorkers are bad, but PA is the worse. AT least NJ Drivers are A-holes on purpose. PA drivers have NO idea what they are doing ever.

    I’m from ‘Upstate’ (Orange County) and I can’t stand driving anywhere near the city. I especially dread driving on the L.I.E.

  15. New Jersey drivers are TERRIBLE drivers… they deserve those high insurance rates.

    And Jeremy Clarkson, while amusing at times, can really be a total *ss on so many topics. He’s actually one of the reasons I resent paying the TV Licensing Fee over here for the BBC…

  16. Wow, lots of Jersey hate in here today. I’m born and raised in NJ. Always lived here and probably always will. Right now I live about 10 mins from Paramus. There are a few rules out-of-staters need to follow.

    1) Keep right except to pass, which is an actual NJ law. That means all the NY a-holes who drive 20 miles under the speed limit in the left lane. They are leading a parade of very angry drivers who will force you off the road if they have to.

    2) Just because you signal doesn’t mean you automatically get to pull into the lane. It’s up to the driver in that lane whether or not you get to move.

    3) Jersey cops usually pull over out of state drivers if given the choice.

    4) The speed limit on Rt 17 in Paramus is 50. No exceptions.

    And, Waiter, they weren’t going to the Container Store. It was Starbucks!

  17. i just finished reading u r book and i am totally blown away. i am a server in cleveland OH and have been in the business on and off for 30 years. u r an inspiration to all servers and i hope u keep on writing….thank u 4 everything that i would of loved 2 say about the “assholes” and other groups of wonderful guests. it is a way of life that can be very profitable, yet stressful……..I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Holy crap! I was just on 17 yesterday! These other comments make it sound like other states don’t have a single bad driver.

  19. Driving in California well, isn’t much better especially in San Franciso.

    But a better question is arn’t we in a recession? Shouldn’t the parking lots be empty like the media leads us in fear they are?

    ;-)
    -Dispatcher

  20. wow waiter,
    one of the things i watch on a first date is how the man drives. if he is rude and an angry driver, a big red flag. then of course i see how the man treats and tips wait staff.:)

    i will say that i went to the movies up in santa monica, ca with a man who was from long island, ny. this man scared the shit out of me to the point i did not want to drive home with him. he was such an ass. cutting people off on the 8 lane 405 freeway and oblivious to the horns and people flipping him off. never got in a car with that idiot again.

    anyway, people here in LA can be jerks at times. i am a polite driver. and i have low blood pressure my doctor says and the heart rate of a trained athlete.

    LA drivers have gotten better now that they can’t text or talk on the phone while driving.:)

    i live and work close to home. seldom do i have to get on the freeway during rush hour.:)

    now when i lived the beautiful city of bogota, colombia i was scared shitless of the drivers. my first week there i was in the car with a neighbor. the traffic wasn’t moving on the septima (a main street, like wilshire here in LA). anyway, he just made a third lane by squeezing through a bus and another car. i just closed my eyes and took another hit of that hand rolled cigarette (if you get my meaning).

    they also did not stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. it got so bad that the mayor of bogota put mimes, yes that’s right, MIMES at intersections to help persuade drivers to stop thus avoiding road kill of citizens.:) too much.

    that whole country was just like the magical realism gabriel garcia marquez writes about in his novels. good times, magical you could say.:)
    mary

  21. “Offensive driving” … that explains a lot about the aggressive, dangerous, totally crackpot driving we see from cars with Jersey plates here in upstate N.Y.

  22. driving in new jersey scared the hell out of me, sugar! i literally pulled over and go out of the car and made my husband drive, i couldn’t take the pressure! xoxo

    (i learned how to drive in los angeles, so i KNOW insane drivers!)

  23. Wow, that’s why you were there? To speak to a live human so you can set up cable and internet?

    Those are two things I would AVOID driving to if at all possible. I would rather order it online or from a machine than deal with a human for something so mundane. I’m as…thrifty…as the next guy but cmon, moneybags. Have you been hurt by a cable company in the past??

  24. I grew up in northern jersey and learned to drive there. I then spent a large portion of my life in the SF Bay area of California where people think nothing of driving at 90 mph about 5 nanometers off your bumper. We then lived in Alabama where people are doing 80 at the end of their driveway backing into the cul de sac where they live. In Huntsville, the local interstate is known as the Talledaga 565. We now live in Portland Oregon where the locals think that doing the speed limit is aggressive driving. Of course these same idiots will drive fast through parking lots and cut through parking spaces, appearing out of no where in your peripheral vision. They will also get about one foot off your bumper and not let anyone in from a highway entrance nor let anyone move over to exit. We’ve come to think they must be aliens from Neptune relocated by the US government after they crash landed.

  25. The Discovery channel has at least as much blowing stuff up at certain times. The guys on Mythbusters LOVE exploding stuff.

  26. wow….anyone ever try to drive thru chicago at rush hour??(i’m sorry…no such thing…it’s ALL DAY INTO THE EVENING SITTING IN TRAFFIC) my life is a living hell now with winter here & a mayor who refuses to salt/plow our roads (and no jokes please about our Governor…) besides some of the most ignorant drivers you will ever encounter, we now must contend with potholes the size of kansas on almost every road…YOU’VE BEEN WARNED…BEWARE CHICAGO DRIVERS……..

  27. Agreed RNMOM…and why is it that people who live in the midwest for 20 years still freak out over a little snow? It’s the midwest…Chicago…Illinos…snow/ice happens! Deal with it!!! At least I’m not in the city, I guess.

  28. I live in Delhi, India. You should try driving here sometime.
    Not only are drivers ignorant of and unwilling to obey any rule at all, you’ll also be dealing with the very frequent herd of cows and pack of dogs settling down in the middle of the road. But you can’t really blame them for not following the rules, can you?

  29. I knew DC area driving had gotten bad when I was riding in a car near Boston, and here we are on the exit ramp to 128, and I’m thinking, “why doesn’t anyone pull out!?!” I’m also amused by the people who think that turn signals in heavy traffic constitute a request. Down here, what they mean 50% of the time is “if you don’t make a space for me, you’re going to hit me, and even if it means I’m at fault, you’re still going to be stuck filling out forms and calling a tow truck if you don’t let me in.”

  30. After spending 25 years in NJ I would have agreed with your analysis, until I moved to the Middle East (Doha, Qatar) two years ago. Compared to here, NY or NY drivers are like a bunch of nuns out for a relaxing Saturday afternoon drive in the country. All of the defensive driving skills I learned 35 years ago when I drove a NYC taxi during my college days have come in handy. You just expect to be cut off at any moment by someone making a left turn from the right lane or vice versa. A local will drive up to two feet from your bumper and start flashing his lights for you to move over, even though there are cars in the next lane making your getting out of the way impossible. And if you get caught going through a red light, the fine is over $1600 (and with red-light cams at every major intersection your will get caught). Speeding, which everyone does to excess between speed cams is treated much more leniently ($160 to $280).

  31. Dear Waiter. Loved, loved, loved your book. Although you really need a better editor for all the typos. I was scandalized at all the typos. I thought a publisher would and should proofread and correct all your innocent errors. And on that note, please double-check your apostrophes before publishing in your blog. In this story, you use “it’s” correctly as a contraction, but also incorrectly as a possessive, which should be “its” with no apostrophe. Just remember that the apostrophe is only there if it stands for something, such as it’s=it is. It is never, ever, ever used for a plural. For fun, plus good reminders, see http://www.apostropheabuse.com/. All the best to you in the new year.

  32. I travel on I-95 in Maryland every day. Anytime someone is driving like an ass there is a better than average chance that the plates say either NJ or NY. You people really need to learn some etiquette and to learn how to drive!

  33. Sounds like how we Wisconsin dwellers feel about those Illinois (FIBS) coming in to Wisconsin and driving like damn idiots. Slow down, speed up, slow down, speed up. They should teach them how to pass properly on the interstate. Or how NOT to stay in someone’s blind spot constantly.

    Now I am sure someone from Illinois will chime in and start talking crap about Wisconsin, but let ‘em. At least we know where the blinker is, the gas peddle and how to pass properly.

  34. The original designer of the NJ roads was a total fucktard.

    And a double-birdy for those who put the signs out there. What a great job they did to hide them so no one without experience can spot them easily.

  35. YOU ASKED:

    “If you want to survive the Garden State’s mean streets you have forget all that defensive driving crap you learned in high school and become an offensive driver in every sense of the word.”

    YOU RECEIVED:

    “The hapless driver of the Chevy reattempts his evil line cutting several car lengths ahead of me. He too is rebuffed by a New Jersey driver who employs some colorful hand signage as well as his horn.”

  36. I have to just laugh at this post. As a NYCer, my most common phrase while driving in the city (and I drive here EVERY day) is “Stupid fucking Jersey driver. Get the fuck out of my city.” In fact, for much of your post, swap NJ with NY and you’ve written my feelings about Jersey drivers in NYC.

    And for fucks sake, there is NO RIGHT ON RED in any of the 5 boroughs!!!! LOL

    Love the Top Gear gang. Jeremy’s great, but I like Richard even better.

  37. Worst drivers in the US are from Ohio. They don’t know how to signal, don’t grasp the concept of a one way street, drive sloooooow in the fast lane and WILL NOT let you pass. Seriously, people will go slow and you try to pass them and they speed up…then slow down…then cut you off. At night. Without headlights on.
    Hates them… my family calls them FIFOs

  38. I concur with your ‘block and destroy’ method of correcting line cutting. I loved Jeremy Clarkson’s car handling tests against Army snipers and a tank. I work in Baltimore and we have nicknamed the “Baltimore Beltway” the “NASCAR KY 53″ Because it’s 53 miles around and somebody is always trying to drive up your backside.

    Hang tough waiter!

  39. strike two !

    and where do you think all these shitty drivers go when they retire ? – yup florida

    and most likely hallandale beach blvd – on double coupon days you’ll see these land yachts drive from the far left lane make a wide right turn into the publix parking lot

    but who cares about all this crap – what happened to waiter rants reserved for the kitchen ?

    frankD

  40. Heh. I have survived the formative years of NJ driving through rain, ice, sleet and snow – My CA born & bred boyfriend can’t stand my driving. I was raised on the Garden State Parkway and Rte 22 was our retail gauntlet.

  41. I’ve never seen that video. Thanks. I’m an old school tanker, I’ve driven the Abrams but spent most of my time on the older Patton. I do miss blowing stuff up, but I don’t miss the chickenshit.

  42. First, I’m offended because I live in NY and no, I’m not a bad driver. And second, you dumb ass there is more to NY than just Manhattan and Brooklyn. There’s a WHOLE other state outside of the city and you shouldn’t be stereotyping the whole entire state because of the city. And third, almost every NJ driver I have come across in upstate New York has been a bad driver.

  43. Gotta love us Jersey drivers. I actually had a ball reading this entry to my friends. we all live in bergen county and know all too well about the love that is route 17. New Yorkers stay the hell off my roads.

  44. Hey Waiter,

    Just so you know, there are a few things you need to know about Verizon’s 911 emergency services.

    If you dial 911 on your Verizon line, you’re not directly connected to a REAL 911 operator… you’re connected to a trained Verizon emergency operator. It’s their job to take your call, get your information and transfer that to the REAL 911 operator, whom you’ll speak with after you’ve talked to the Verizon operator.

    It’s something to keep in mind, as it slows down the entire procedure of calling for help when you most need it…

  45. Jersey is the most awful place to drive. Worse than anywhere on LI in my opinion. (I would like to note that I moved to Buffalo 6 years ago, where driving is always pleasurable)

    New Jersey sucks for the following reasons:

    Fact: It is against the law to pump your own gas in Jersey. The residents are too incompetent to be trusted with this seemingly easy task.

    Fact: Making a left turn in Jersey is the most complicated maneuver on Earth. They invented some type of turning lane called a “jug-handle” which requires you to exit on the right in order to make a left. This prevents retarded Jerseyites from cutting off 3 lanes of traffic during a turn, but bewilders the shit out of anyone who is used to driving on normal roads.

    Fact: New Jersey offers nothing to the Union other than affordable housing for people who work in NY.

    Fact: Jersey Smells.

  46. Well, New Jersey does smell. At least the part along the turnpike. More rural counties like Sussex County smell like horseshit.

  47. hi waiter,
    i have read some of the comments with folks missing your waiter rants. i have just discovered you this past summer and read loads of your old posts that cracked me up.

    like the one about the trophy wives coming in talking about blow jobs. i saw them all so clearly. and that my friend is great writing. and the comments on that post cracked me up. especially the guy who said since you were a waiter you should have said, “it is all about the tip.”:) too much.

    anyway, i am so enjoying reading all your recent posts. be it about the bear, the old folks in the delis, and driving. and from the amount of people commenting, i think the majority of your fan base do as well. it is your style i keep coming back for. you crack me up.

    have a great night!!!!:)
    mary
    mary

  48. Oh my goodness, I’m a former waitress and I’ve been reading the blog for years, and I have to tell you, I laughed out load when I read the comment about Inwood. That’s where I currently live and everytime we have friends come in I have to go down and park for them because no one ever has the guts to really squeeze the car in as is necessary here. I don’t drive much anymore (I moved to the city from MO, where I drove EVERYWHERE), but my parking skills are still sharp! Hello back at you from Inwood! :)

  49. I live in Los Angeles. This is a place where no one is from here and therefore they aren’t aggressive enough to drive. And the few people that are can’t deal with driving when there’s rain.

  50. South Jerseyite here and it is a pretty harrowing experience to venture to North Jersey when you don’t already know which way to go by sight. That being said, all the NY and PA people that vacation at the shore are the worst.

  51. Hi, Waiter. I just (Friday) got a job being one of those people who sell Verizon FiOS face to face (though in PA, not NJ), and you can definitely get better deals in person. I hope you got a great one!

    I’m not here to pitch you anything, but realize that us salespeople are not evil, just human. Pricing errors happen, especially when a promotion has just ended. I wouldn’t doubt some waiters and waitresses have ‘lied’ about the specials when it was simply a slip of the tongue or a matter of forgetting that the specials changed. Frustrating, yes, but human, too. (And, as I’m sure the salesperson said, we’re ranked #1 in customer service, in case you get a *particularly* human salesperson.)

    Now I’m curious as to which service providers you used before!

  52. I grew up in NY—in Orange County. “Jersey Drivers” were the bane of our driving existence. My favorite example is of a Jersey plated car backing up the on-ramp to 17; I guess he decided he didn’t want to go home after all.

  53. Waiter, seems like you have hit on a popular topic – criticizing drivers. We’ll all join in.
    I lived in Guatemala for a couple of years, and there was an intersection near my apartment. The intersection has no visible stop signs, and no indication as to which of the five converging lanes is a one-way thoroughfare. Cars come flying from all five points on the compass, following a logic which defies characterization, and decide, as if on impulse, whether to roar through the intersection, or stop, or slow down, or slam on brakes. The rules, as I understand them, are as follows:

    * Rights of tonnage do apply. If you are bigger, and care less about your vehicle, you own the road. Thus,
    * Bus drivers have right-of-way over everyone. They care the least, and are the biggest, baddest, and most intensely decorated vehicles on the road. On the front of these monsters, you can read the slogans, including “Jesus is my Copilot”. If so, he has his eyes closed, too, with his mouth forming a silent scream.
    * Entering the intersection involves a blind turn for three directions of traffic. Rules one and two come into play at this point.
    * Left-turns at this intersection freak your passengers out – the road coming in from the left is for incoming traffic only.
    * Horns are to be used liberally. Greetings, warnings, anger, frustration, all expressed through Morse code cacophony. And, of course, real anger expresses itself with a tattoo of “shave and a haircut” – the most dreadful insult this side of Belgium.
    * Stopped cars may be dead. Do not wait your turn.
    * Slow cars must be passed. Especially if you drive a bus.
    * If you get there first, the sidewalk is yours.
    * Check with your copilot, then ignore oncoming traffic.
    * Crossing guards wear uniforms to make them more visible. They are targets. Do not attempt to follow their instructions, for the arm windmill you see is not anything more than their attempt to regain balance after their last collision with a bus.
    * Successful navigation of the intersection leads you toward town. This “straight” path has two war-battered concrete barriers in the middle. These are not intended to stop traffic, merely to dissuade bus drivers. Passage through these concrete gates of hell gives my car 2″ of berth on each side. I am not even close to the largest vehicle to pass through them. Many are five inches wider than my Blazer.

    Driving through the intersection is an awful experience. And walking it is worse. I visited Boston to visit my sister once. Pedestrians, she explained, are sacred. Much like the cow in India, no one seems to care that the pedestrian serves no real purpose, it is a protected creature. In New Orleans, this is not the case; pedestrians are viewed as an oddity to be tolerated, but accorded no special privileges. Like a squirrel, if one gets run over, there is no real sadness. It is, after all, just a pedestrian.

    Antigua is different still. Adjacent to the intersection near my apartment is an inaptly named crosswalk. Crosshairs, is more like it. Vehicles avidly search and destroy pedestrians coming out of the social security office at the corner. The scene is part Asteroids, part Frogger.

    The only vehicles that will occasionally cede right of way to a pedestrian are the kamikaze motorized tricycle rickshaw go-kart taxis, named tuk-tuks. These demonspawn and the 12-year-old kids that drive them are adept at avoiding everything, but are very small and lightweight, and can be shoved into a wall by a stiff breeze. It is hard to pass one without thinking of bumper-carring them into a wall. I imagine that there might be some situation where I would consider riding in one. I am not positive, though. Nevertheless, you will never see on that is not jammed with seven people. Groceries, the family chicken, all five kids, and Dad inside, with Mom and papoose hanging on to the door, one foot jammed as an umbilicus to keep her attached to the flying tuk-tuk.

  54. NJ/NY drivers don’t have to fear what those of us who drive around DC do. Diplomatic plates. Take a driver from a random country, drop them into a car, and give them immunity from all traffic laws in the United States.

    That’s what you get when a car has diplomatic plates.

    Now, I’m not saying that they completely disregard all traffic laws, but the idea that there can be no legal repercussions regardless of what happens (unless there’s a serious problem like a fatality from a drunken driver) is scary prospect.

  55. Waiter, you are so absolutely right. I can relate to those murderous impulses as well; I’m from the Jersey shore, and I have a “Benny Hunting Permit” slapped on the back of my car. (Rule of thumb: If you don’t know what a Benny is, you probably are one.)

    I will say this: NY drivers are rude and inconsiderate, but at least they occasionally hit the speed limit. PA drivers feel the need to drive at least 35 miles below the speed limit, which on local roads can be infuriating. I get to wondering if they ever actually arrive anywhere. Meanwhile, FL drivers are unaware that turn signals actually serve a useful purpose – they’re not just a cute little cosmetic add-on.

    Anyone who says NJ drivers are rude just doesn’t live in NJ. Talk to your fellow out-of-staters about why New Jerseyans get so pissy when they see PA/NY plates.

  56. Ha! Really? As many other people from NY have said on here, Jersey drivers are the worst! You criticize drivers who cut across 3 lanes of traffic, but maybe if 17 was a normal road and people didn’t have to rely on U-turns, the drivers could drive safely and sanely. With that said, I’ve driven on 17 many many times and never found it to be the mess you’ve described. FDR or West Side Highway have a tendency to much worse.

  57. Can we clarify “NY drivers?” Being from upstate NY, (and I mean Buffalo, not Westchester), we despise drivers from NYC as much as you do. NYC is its own little world, seperate from the rest of the state. Rather like a small yet invasive tumour we would love to remove.

  58. The 405 in California is brutal. If you screw up there, you could end up with a pistol in your face. Mistakes lead to lethal road rage! It’s incredibly stupid. Don’t go flipping someone off: they could run you off the road or shoot you! I’m not kidding, seriously.

    As for the cutting in line, that has ALWAYS pissed me off. Why should I sit there for twenty minutes waiting my turn, just to have some dipshit come zipping up in the other lane past me and go to the front? Forget it, I’m not letting him in, either.

  59. Uh-huh. I grew up in Rhode Island and met my wife and then moved to New Jersey. The driving here was scary, to say the least. But I’ve been here almost ten years now and you learn quickly, run with big dogs or stay on the porch….My driving scares my poor mother who will live her whole life in R.I. When I go back there to visit I can’t believe how awful those people drive…lol..
    Great Entry as usual Waiter!

  60. The only thing you need to know from this article is that jersey drivers have the highest car insurance. That tells you all you need to know about how great jersey drivers are. If you live in Manhattan then you know every time some wanker’s car alarm goes off, or some clown has double parked just look at the plates. Jersey every time.

  61. I love it! But why oh why did you stop there, I wanted to follow you into the store.

    Aw Waiter, you’re a great storyteller and adventurer.

    More, please!

    L.

  62. Speaking as a lifelong Jerseyite…HELL YES. Have you ever driven on 22? I thought that was bad. Then I discovered 17. That one little are where 4, the parkway and some other intersection all collide? My knuckles turn white as I drive through it. Mind you, I’m doing the weaving aggressive driving you mentioned. Smart aggressive though. I hate the people who get off the highway and jump across 4 lanes.

  63. An addendum: Do you know who Dave Barry is? If not, he’s an absolutely hilarious humor columnist for the Miami herald. One of his favorite topics is Miami drivers and the lack of any sense of order on the Miami roads. After visiting down there about a decade ago, I’d say they are definitely forerunners for bad drivers.

  64. the great thing about learning to drive in jersey is that nothing ever scares you again. boston, nyc, philly, la, dc, none of them phased me. hell, I don’t even mind driving friends up to newark airport. getting out of there unharmed makes me feel like I can do anything. I guess that’s the same feeling people get from bungee jumping.

  65. to RNMOM i completly agree i live in central illinois and when we get a little bit of snow people turn in to total idiots, come on people it happens every year. To frank d. dude he is not a waiter any more deal with it.

  66. Yo Writer – - as someone else said but needs to be emphasized: _it’s_ is ALWAYS a contraction for _it is_. It’s NEVER NEVER NEVER a plural.

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  68. Hahahah, you are right on. I learned all my best driving (in a car anyway) from all the NJ residents who moved to Arizona in the 1960′s and 1970′s when I was learning to drive. They were wonders of aggression and when I was learning to drive a big truck (18 wheeler) my trainer wondered out loud where I learned to drive. I told him “In NY/NJ via Arizona”.

  69. i work and live at this area. big pain in the ass, the waiter is right.
    to make matters worse sometimes my wife calls me on the way home, while i am in traffic, through my car’s bluetooth(which kills the radio), to bitch and moan to prep me for my arrival home.

  70. I was just on the 17 last weekend. Being from Montreal, I know what bad driving is all about. Sometimes I think we invented it. We go to NYC 2-3 times a year and usually cut by the 17 to reach GW Bridge. I have to tell you, everytime I hit that road, I get tensed because of how crazy it is. I honestly think it’s the most dangerous road I’ve driven on and honestly, NJ drivers are not any better or any worse than anywhere else, just crazier. ;-)

  71. Upstate NY-er here…. I can’t even think of the correct words to express my hatred for cocky dangerously unaware Jersey drivers.. ugh. Fo’ real.

  72. i am so glad malaysians aren’t the only ones with driving/traffic woes. thanks for the revelation that the grass isn’t always greener in the united states!

  73. YO, THIS IS MY PLAN, IF I WAS PRESIDENT, ALL THE PEOPLE IN OUR JAILS, I WOULD JUST SEND THEM TO AFRICA, SINCE AFRICA IS A SHIETHOLE, WHO CARES, WHY WASTE TAX PAYER DOLLARS HOUSING CRIMINALS, WHEN U CAN JUST DUMP THEM IN AFRICA

  74. I totally agree on R17…I will do pretty much anything to avoid it….I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cut off by some fucking arsehole who just realized PC Richards is there…right there…right now…and they need PC Richards right now..now…now…..If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 10,000 times, I hate 17….have you ever tried to get into the Boston Market on 17…now, that’s taking your life in your hands…and I’m not talking the food…

  75. LOL at least that’s just one highway. That sounds like each and every road in Kuwait. For all the flashy hundred-thousand-dollar cars on the road, you’d think people would know how to drive them. Nope :/

  76. I’ve been following this blog for a long time and have never before felt the need to post a comment but as a loyal resident of Manhattan I feel compelled to share the observation that the most horrendous drivers here seem almost always to be driving cars with New Jersey plates. (In fairness, though, maybe one factor is that drivers just may seem better at least when they’re on roads they’re familiar with.)

  77. NJ, NY, PA what’s the difference?

    The one just zoomed past me is a douche.

    The snail in front of my is a moron.

    Some crazy fuck just cut me off.

    What’s wrong with this lost bird? Let me how you the way we drive here!

    SgDung says:
    If you only focus on yourself, every way you look you are going to see an asshole.

    SgDung says:
    If everyone seems like an asshole, you are the asshole.

    SgDung says:
    If you look at the world through your asshole, it’s going to stink, period.

  78. And just what kind of pain would it have caused if you had let the guy in. Basically you behaved like an asshole. just admit it.

  79. I live about 25 minutes from Paramus. My brother just got his car totaled on 17 by someone wanting to cut across two lanes to get to a Houlihans. I have avoided 17 as a rule, even before that. This might be one of my favorite posts.

    (This is why I go to the Verizon store on route 46…I’d take the 23/46/80 spaghetti bowl over the 4/17 interchange any day!)

  80. Amen Waiter! I learned to drive on that stretch of 17. Hell I still have Jersey plates on my car and I live in upstate NY. They’re like diplomatic immunity to other drivers. “Forget traffic laws, I have Jersey plates!” Haha.

  81. I went to college at Ramapo College, so Route 17 was my life for 4 years. I actually miss it! I hate to say it, but I’m one of those typical NJ drivers – anyone going faster than me is insane, anyone slower is an idiot in my way. I LOVED going to the Garden State Plaza in December! My roommate and I would take a day and get ALL of our shopping done. I loved it.

    Now I deal with shore traffic in the summer. Ugh.

  82. Soupy– thank you! What I said. (Comment #38.)
    For even more fun with misplaced apostrophes, see one of my other favorites besides Waiter Rant, at http://www.apostropheabuse.com/. Hey, maybe we should sign up to be Waiter’s proofreaders. If we have this very annoying habit of noticing details, might as well put it to good use.

  83. I learned to drive on Route 17 when I was a teenager in NJ and it was likened to “flying in tight formation with the Blue Angels.” Now, I drive the streets of Miami where you have a convergence of driving skills (term used loosely) from around the globe and I feel like I can drive anywhere with confidence. Even though it’s been decades since my learner’s permit, I can still flip a bird with the best of them. An awesome asphalt education is to be had on Rte. 17! Thanks for the great memories.

  84. heh. i think that most folks are bozos behind the wheel, but at least here in northern california, we recognize the fact that there are bozos on the road with us. I-80 between SF and Sacramento is one of those crazy places. some of the road warriors (long distance commuters) are the best, and the dweebs zipping on and off the freeway at the next ramp are the absolute worst.
    when the speed limit on the state roads was 55 mph, we joked that they named I-80 not as some random interstate, but acknowledged the average speed. it has only gotten faster now that the limit has been bumped up to 65.
    keep those posts coming, bud.
    oh, and i heard some time ago that Adam Carolla ( http://adam.freefm.com/ ) was doing an americn version of TopGear. don’t know what has come of that, but at least he’s funny.

  85. Sure glad I don’t live up there in that hell hole NJ and NY. Also if ny, nj, people drove like that where i live our state troopers would give them a nice welcome.

  86. “For most of it’s length it’s your average traffic laden Garden State eyesore.”

    {The Grammar Pirate swings down on a halyard, draws his cutlass and smites the extra apostrophe from the possessive!}

    For most of its length, it’s your average traffic laden Garden State eyesore.”

    Remember, it’s = it is, EVERY SINGLE TIME. Contractions are the first and foremost use of apostrophes. Try not to use them unless you can separate your word into two words.

    NEVER use apostrophes for ANY plural forms!

  87. You want to find the most horrifying drivers in the US? VIVA LAS VEGAS, BABY. None of us are natives. None. We are all either angry New Yorkers (self included), European, Asian, or from California. Dotted with the worst drivers from every other state in the Union as well. Oh, and don’t forget the tourists who are renting cars. Insurance, baby. Who gives a shit what happens to the Focus? Enterprise makes it all better.
    No self-respecting Vegas resident DARES EVER drive up Las Vegas Blvd (including us who work on the Strip – we have learned to morph, beam, drive underground, even fly hang-gliders into the underbellies of the hotels to avoid the Strip), unless you are in desperate need of an excuse to go to jail. We all learned our lesson once. The people with Iowa plates spilling out the drivers side window, screaming out the hotel names, as if expecting the Luxor or Bellagio fountains to introduce themselves and sign autographs. Pedestrians are so mesmorized by the lights (AND DRUNK) they stumble into 4-lane oncoming traffic and look at the cars in hazy, mild confusion when they see 8 pairs of headlights barreling towards them.
    The highway isn’t much better. Two drivers recently got creamed because one guy, a recent graduate of the Nicole Richie Driving School, was barrelling up the I-15 on the WRONG SIDE OF THE MEDIAN FOR 50 MILES. Road lamps are scarce, so I can imagine the poor motorist who suffered at the mercy of the first one’s stupidity couldn’t tell the headlights were DIRECTLY in front of him until it was too late (this happened around 3am). Absolutely tragic. And forget ever making left-hand turns. Vegas drivers have it etched in their brain that you NEVER have the right to turn left, so even when you have a green arrow, people are shouting and giving you the finger. Unless of course THEY are the ones who want to turn left, in which case, they are allowed to turn left whenever the mood strikes them, regardless of signs, cars next to them, and other basic laws of traffic.
    I learned to drive on Long Island, so I probably suck in my own right. Maybe as I bust a U at an exit ramp, while texting and lighting a cigarette, I should remember not to be so hard on the not-native Vegas drivers ;-) (just kidding, I don’t really bust U’s on exit ramps. I do them over medians).

  88. I ALWAYS WONDERED, IS THERE A HEAVEN OR HELL? IF THERE IS A HELL, IM THINKIN IM PROLLY GONNA GO TO HELL, IT MAKES ME SAD, WHY DOES SHIET HAVE TO BE SO HARD, I WANNA CRY, THEN SLAP A BI. IF U BAD AND SELFISH U GO TO HELL, IF UR GOOD AND GIVING U GO TO HEAVEN, HOW ABOUT IF UR YOUNG AND U DIE OF CANCER, DO U AUTOMATICALLY GO TO HEAVEN, BUT WAT IF U WERE BAD AND SELFISH ALSO, THEN WHERE THE FUK WOULD U GO, WAT IF U WERE BAD, THEN TURNED GOOD, WHERE WOULD U GO AFTER U DIE? IT COULD GO EITHER WAY IN SO MANY WAYS, IF U WERE BAD, DO U GET REINCARNATED AS A COCKROACH? THAT WOULD SUK, ALOT OF TIMES I WISH I WASNT EVEN BORN, CUZ LIFE IS SO FUKKKKED UP SOMETIMES, I DONT EVEN LIKE GETTTING UP MOST OF THE TIME NIGGGGGA, EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE SUCH A CHORE, EVEN EATING HAS BECOME MUNDANE, AND WHEN U WATCH THE NEWS, ALL U HEAR ABOUT IS BAD NEWS AND ABOUT ALL THE FUKKKKED UP SHIET IN THE WORLD, ALL THE GREED AND HATRED, SURE THIS IS GOOD ALSO, BUT EVIL SEEMS TO BE SO MUCH MORE OUT THERE, LOOK AT THE US, HOW RICH IT IS, AND THEN U LOOK AT AFRICA AND JUST HOT POOR AND STARVING ALL THE PEOPLE ARE, THEN U HEAR ABOUT BERNIE MADOFF AND HOW HE LOST 50 BILLION DOLLARS OF RICH PEOPLES MONEY, THEN U SEE BUMS ON THE STREET EATING OUT OF THE TRASH CAN, THEN U EAT AT BUFFETS WHERE THERE IS ENDLESS FOOD, AND THEN U SEE IMAGES OF PEOPLE DYING IN AFRICA OF STARVATION, LIFE I SO FUKKKED UP IN HOW RANDOM AND UNFAIR IT IS, ALOT OF TIMES THERE SEEMS LIKE THERES NO RHYME OR REASON, BUT THEN AT THE SAME TIME U THINK THERE MUST BE A GOD, I MEAN WHO COULD HAVE CREATED NATURE, THE WONDERS OPF THE UNIVERSE, THE COMPLEXT HUMAN BODY, THE CREATION OF ART AND MUSIC, SO MANY THINGS IN THE WORLD APPREAR TO BE A MIRACLE TO ME, SOMETHING THAT COULD NOT BE MAN MADE, SO IN THE END , I THINK THERE WAS A GOD THAT CREATED EVERYTHING, BUT I FEEL LIKE HE DIED, RIGHT AFTER HE CREATED THE UNIVERESE, HE CREATED US, THEN JUST DESERTED US, WHERE DO WE GO TO AFTER WE DIE? I HAVE NO IDEA, A BIG PART OF ME WISHES THAT IT WOULD JUST BE ALL OVER, NO MORE THOUGHTS , NO MORE WORRIES, NO MORE FEELINGS, I DONT CARE ABOUT HEAVEN, THAT WOULD BE HEAVEN TO ME, BUT THEN A BIG PART OF ME THINKS THERE MUST BE SOME KIND OF JUDGEMENT ON HUMAN SOULS, IT WOULD BE UNFAIR IF ALL PEOPLE HAD THE SAME FATE, PEOPLE ARE SO DIFFERENT, ESEPCIALLY GOOD PEOPLE AND BAD PEOPLE, IF EVERYONE HAD THE SAME FATE, IT WOULD DEFINITELY BE UNFAIR, BUT AS EVERYONE ALREADY KNOS LIFE IS UNFAIR

  89. My wife is from Toms River NJ and I have driven on a few of the roads out there, it’s a life changing experience for sure. Living here in Florida I can write driving rants all day long too.

  90. Well, at least everyone in the US seems to be in a car. The worst driving I ever did was in the city center of places like Amsterdam and The Hague, where there are pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds, both with utter disregard for traffic laws, trams, busses and other cars going in all direction at once at some points. Paris city center is fun as well, espacially the parallel parking.

    And then there are the stories of traffic in India, where the only laws that applies is:
    The biggest car wins.

    It seems unlikely I will ever be driving in the US, but I can recommend a change of congestion to Europe, the Netherlands.

    Hans

  91. Blogging about driving is a sure bet to receive many comments and here are mine. One, notice that no one ever admits to being a bad driver? One sure bet to detect a bad driver amongst coworkers is if their main complaint about driving is slow drivers. Bad drivers view others as being nothing more than road obstacles. Two, I travel throughout the country and there is no good place to drive, in my opinion. Three, NY City drivers are out of sync with the rest of the country due to the type of roads and conditions they contend with. Four, NY and NJ people are not the same even if you think we are. No one has noticed that nearly all the actors on the Sopranos have Brooklyn or Long Island accents, not NJ. If you meet someone from NJ with a NY sounding accent then they were raised in NY. Listen to the Waiter talk. I think he’s from the North NJ, Clifton, near the land of the Sopranos and has the NJ accent that I know of living here forever.

  92. dear AIM=KALIKRNGUYX ,

    according to mark twain heaven and hell both exist – he said “you go to heaven for the climate and hell for the society”

    dear steve ,

    any chance of getting this thing back to the service industry ?

  93. I’m from Jersey, and the worst driving I’ve ever seen was in Colombia. I sat in terror riding shotgun for 4 hours. I got the “good seat” because I was the guest.

    There was a bicycle race that first day. Drivers had no problem hitting their horn and forcing the bicyclists to jump into ditches. Our driver forced an old lady to jump into a ditch.

    The traffic lights have two yellow lights – one before turning red, and one before turning green. That way you have people running the red light and anticipating the green light at the same time.

    Oh, and at night? No one pays attention to the stop signs or traffic lights.

    I didn’t want to leave Colombia because I knew it would be another 4 hour terror-filled drive to the airport. Even the armed soldiers on the overpasses, pointing guns at traffic were less scary than the drivers!

  94. Gee, I drive Route 17 all the time as my brother lives in Hillsdale and I just find the traffic slow, not menancing.

    And the only problem with New Jersey is Jersyites. Or is that Jerseyans?

  95. Where the heck on 17 can you make a U’ie? (the median makes it a tad difficult)

    Worst driving I ever saw was in Boston where I saw a driver backing up in a round-about because they missed their exit!

  96. LMAO! You guys got nothing on us Californians! We can either jam at light speed or park between a dog’s toes! We don’t even have time to signal but that is OK cuz no one expects to see one anyway. All over the country, you guys keep complaining that we are all crazy, but we know the truth is you guys are just slowpokes! ;-)

  97. Lived on Long Island, went to college in Brooklyn, lived in Jersey (near Trenton)…Still looking for a car with laser cannons in the headlights…Sigh…

  98. ummm, Eva?

    Nobody in California can drive in the rain, the roads are greasy and hydroplaning is not fun. People who don’t signal need to get the F#*k off the phone, it’s illegal now.

  99. Не очень понятно о чем идет речь, хотелось бы более обширнее получить информацию о данной теме.

  100. О, это что-то, недавно где-то уже о таком слышала. Ваше мнение имеет основание быть. Вы понимаете то, о чем пишите. Немного почитав, хотелось бы узнать больше.

  101. To everyone in PA, both NJ and NY drivers are insane. But I’m sure proud of my driving tests in Jersey when I’m commuting between Princeton and Philly every day. ;-)

  102. I learned to drive on LI. Moved to PA. Have to drive THROUGH NJ to visit. My husband grew up in PA. He hates it when I drive back to LI to visit. He says something happens to me when I get on the GW. Remember that scene from Fried Green Tomatoes- “I’m bigger than you and have more insurance…” That’s my motto. As was said before, anyone in front of me is going too slow and if you’re flashing your high beams at me you’re going way too fast!

  103. sadly, jersey drivers are so used to fighting off new york drivers, that they bring the agression with them to PA. Easton, PA is a freakin warzone on the roads being right across the river from phillipsburg.

  104. Ch… this rude and aggressive driving stuff seems to be an East Coast problem. Washington DC is a terrible place to drive, especially when you’ve just moved there from out West – where people are polite enough to let you merge.

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  107. I was born and bred in New Jersey, and I was too young to drive. (In fact, I never plan to drive – I’m both a meek coward and a high-functioning autistic who is afraid that small things can distract me from focusing on the road.) But I’ve been to a lot of routes with animal drivers, such as Route 20 on my way to and from The Forum School in Waldwick (I lived in Clifton at that time).

    I now live in the state with much worse drivers: Florida. I live in the Brandon area,near SR 60, which is “Route 17′s Floridian Half-Blood.” Too many animals cutting my mother off when I rode with her to wherever it is.

    I tip my hat to those bus drivers who drove us Forum School kids on field trips for knowing the Route 17 game. Every field trip that involves the highway was planned out, so I rarely had a brush-in with jams.

    No wonder I call it “Old Frenemy Route 17″ – it can be helpful and less of a bother if you plan for it and how to drive it.

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