Tony put on his right turn signal and pulled into the McDonalds’ parking lot. The McDonalds was a couple hundred feet south of the Shell station but since it was December in New Jersey and bloody cold out he figured they’d pick up food, drive down to the gas station and then switch drivers rather than filling up and walking over to McDonalds. Plus he figured that if he suggested that Gerri, “The Polish Princess,” had to walk in the cold that she would start whining all over again. John roused to semi-consciousness and said, “Where are we?” as he gently pushed Gerri’s slobbering maw away from his shoulder. He looked at the puddle on his shirt and wrinkled his nose in disgust.
“Just pulling into McDonalds. The gas station is right over there. I figured we’d use the bathrooms, get some food and then go over and fill up before you start driving.”
“Good, I need to go potty,” was Gerri’s juvenile rejoinder. Tony wondered for perhaps the hundredth time just exactly what his brother saw in the girl.
“Alright. Let’s get in there and get out. Does anybody care if we eat in the car?” Tony asked.
“Yeah, I think Dad minds. You know he says eating and driving isn’t safe,” John answered.
“Oh, come on! It’s broad daylight, traffic is light, and there’s no snow on the roads; we’ll be fine!”
“Okay, if you say so; but it is Carl’s car.” John had a point. Carl Kneel was an instructor for Drivers Training and had written multiple books on the subject. Their big brother Mike had taken several classes at UMCP that their dad had designed and Tony had taken one too. Even so, Tony blew off his brother’s concern.
“We’ll be fine. You’ll be careful and what Carl doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
“Your dad is way over board with his drivers’ safety crap; it’s like all he ever talks about,” Gerri chimed in.
“Yeah, well you know it is his job. If you guys want to grab food and get moving I won’t stop us but just remember that if something goes wrong there’ll be hell to pay,” were John’s departing words as he climbed out of the car and walked into McDonalds.
Tony got out of the car and shivering from the cold he hurriedly dashed into McDonalds and headed into the men’s room. He hoped to find an empty stall where he could empty his bladder in peace but the toilet stall was already occupied. He thought, “At least there’s a partition between the two urinals,” and sidled up to try and relieve himself. Even though he felt a lot of internal pressure from his bladder the pressure his external surrounding created in his mind prevented the blessed flow that was simultaneous pain and ecstasy. Nothing happened and in an attempt to relieve himself Tony closed his eyes and flushed the empty urinal; after what seemed like an eternity a small, weak trickle piddled from within and finally he relaxed enough to feel the pressure wash out of him. “Crap,” he whispered to himself, “fucking shy bladder.”
John and Tony took turns washing hands at the single sink and headed out to the counter area to wait for Gerri. John shook his head and said, “Why does it always take women twice as long to go to the bathroom as men?”
“Probably because they have to drop their pants and wipe themselves every time would be my guess,” Tony whispered out of the side of his mouth.
John sputtered with laughter and Gerri walked up and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Nuh- nuh- nothing! Tony just said something stupid! Let’s order and get out of here!”
Once they had their food Tony got back in the driver’s seat and quickly got into the left turn lane so he could turn into the Shell station. He pulled up to the pump and John got out of the car and headed toward the gas tank. “Hey, you! What do you think you are doing?” demanded a dark man with a heavy Middle Eastern accent.
“Oh, yeah! Don’t try to pump your own gas here, this is Jersey, baby! No self-serve!” Tony yelled through the open window.
“That is right! Now get away from the pump!” came the harsh, guttural demand.
“Chill out, dude. Go ahead and pump the gas,” John said with a what-the-hell-is-your-problem look on his face.
“Fill it with regular unleaded please,” Tony said, laughing at his brother. “Don’t you know that gas is made to explode? We can’t have civilians touching this stuff; it takes a trained professional.” After a few minutes the pump made the distinctive “Clunk” that signals the automatic shut off and Tony got out and paid the attendant cash. John and Gerri got in the front seat and Tony asked Gerri to hand him the gas/mileage log that was in the 88’s glove compartment. After he had written down the odometer’s distance, gas quantity and cost information in the log he handed it back to Gerri who returned it to the glove compartment. “We can use Carl’s log to figure out how to split the gas later. Turn left out of here and head north up 130.”
John pulled onto the side street and waited for the traffic light to turn green before turning left and heading north. “How long are we on this road before we get to the highway?” he asked.
“This is a highway, it’s U.S. 130; it’ll take us to the Garden State Parkway,” Tony answered from the back seat.
John drove on the divided four lane about ten minutes and a sign on the side of the road said I 195 to New Jersey Turnpike. John looked into the back seat and said, “Get on the Turnpike?”
“No. Just keep going and I’ll tell you where to turn. We’re gonna’ take this to Highway one which’ll take us to the Garden State Parkway.”
Gerri skewed up her face and asked, “Highway One? Like in front of the University of Maryland? Jesus, we could have just gotten on Highway One right in front of school and crawled our way up here.”
“Tony, where the hell are you taking us?” John spat out.
“To Connecticut. I know what I’m doing; I’ve made this trip about a dozen times,” was Tony’s defensive response.
“Hmmm. If you say so,” John answered with no hint of confidence as he kept driving northward. After another ten minutes or so another sign said SR 30, New Jersey Turnpike, two miles. “Is this where we get on the turnpike?” John asked.
“We’re not getting on the damn turnpike! We’re getting on the Garden State!” Tony yelled back.
“Gerri, get out the fucking map and see where we are!”
“I know where we are! We are on 130 about fifteen miles north of Bordentown and we don’t have to get on the damn toll road!” Tony hollered.
Gerri goy out the map while John said, “I’m getting on the turnpike. I don’t care if it is a toll road, it’s gotta’ be faster than this stupid four lane, I mean, we have traffic lights for Christ’s sake!”
“We don’t have to get on the turnpike!”
“Hey; what’s that sign say?” John asked. “New Jersey Turnpike via Hightstown Bypass, State Road 133, one mile. That’s where we’re going!”
Tony sputtered, “For the love of God, why do we have to get on the turnpike? It costs more and it isn’t any shorter!”
John snorted, “It may not be shorter but it sure as hell will take less time; that’s for sure!”
“John, I can’t find where we are on the map,” Gerri worried from the passenger seat.
“Don’t worry about it! We’ll take the turnpike north and we’ll have plenty of time to figure out where we are!” he hollered to Gerri. “Doesn’t the turnpike get us to the Garden State Parkway too, or should we cut through New York City?”
“Christ no!” was Tony’s instantaneous and loud reply. “Do not go through the city! Just take the turnpike to the Garden State and then head north to New York. We get off the Parkway when it becomes the New York Thruway and just keep going; unless of course, you want to take The Palisades north?”
“Is this Palisades an expressway?”
“No,” Tony said simply.
“Then why the hell would we want to take it?” John hollered exasperatedly.
“Yeah!” chimed in Gerri.
”Fine. I get it. Take the turnpike to the Garden State Parkway and then head north. Wake me up when we get to New York, you bunch of grumpy ass moe-foes! Geez!” and with that Tony took off his eyeglasses and laid down in the back seat with his seat-belt loosely around him while Gerri and John looked at each other with, “What the hell was he thinking?” written all over their faces.