Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Into the Twilight Zone

My ride from hell started innocently enough. I decided to stop by my vet's office on the way home from work in order to pick up a gel and a water additive that will, hopefully, stave off a dental for my anesthesia sensitive cat. Now, to set the stage,  the vet is not located anywhere in the vicinity of my house. On a good day, it's a least a half hour ride. We use this vet because, well, she's excellent. When you have a house of felines that are on various medications, you pick and choose and then stay with someone you trust. We've followed her from a huge animal hospital (also not really local) to her new private practice... thirty five minutes as the crow flies from either the office or the house.

Tooling down Garden State Parkway (the beautiful cousin to the NJ Turnpike) is not a hardship in the winter. In fact, right around Exit 120, it's downright gorgeous. It's a flat expanse with water on either side. And at near sunset, it's a spectacular sight. I should have appreciated the moving traffic and the scenery while I could, but I digress.

The vet is located in a town called Fair Haven, which is right next to a larger town called Red Bank. Now typically, Red Bank is the epitome of the Shore arts scene. There are nightclubs, restaurants, a great theater, a train station and traffic. A lot of traffic. But as I approached the heart of the town, I noticed that the usually slow moving traffic was creeping in the opposite direction.  Power lines had come down and, added to the snow plow activity, the major and only street that lead to my destination was closed. The detour going to the office wasn't bad. But the traffic going back the way I came and the way I'd have to go to get home, was a nightmare. So, I smugly asked the vet tech for a quicker way back that would avoid the center of town. She scribbled some directions, which I attempted to memorize as I was pulling out of the parking lot. I made it about a mile into the trek before I saw a  sign for the one road I needed to take to get home. So, ignoring the paper, which distinctly said turn left, I turned right and ran right into the return traffic I had hoped to avoid. At this point, I made the first turn I could and stumbled upon the only unplowed block left in all of New Jersey. I kid you not, it looked like the lunar surface. And there was absolutely no way to turn around. So I tightened my seat belt, turned off my traction control and off I went, jarring my teeth and various body parts all the way down the block, ignoring the angry, upraised fists of the shoveling residents I sprayed with snow as I went by.  At the corner, I made a left turn this time, right back into the traffic I was looking to avoid.

As darkness descended, I gave up any hope of reading the paper the tech gave me, and as I was no longer anywhere near her route, and sitting in traffic that was not going anywhere, the paper was useless. I turned to my gps system instead, and when the traffic started to crawl, made the first available turn off the road and spent the next 15 minutes listening to Australian Karen telling me, with what I imagined was increasing agitation, to turn right, turn right. TURN RIGHT, YOU MORON! (okay, that last part I made up, but I swear she was getting more strident as I ignored her suggestions). With one eye on the display map and the other on the red tail lights in front of me, I saw a sign for my turn off, and proceeded to, well, turn off. Right into a parking lot. Once I figured out that this was not Route 520 (there are no rows of parking spots on a major thoroughfare) I got myself turned around and out of there.  I was let back on the same road by a driver who looked suspiciously like he was laughing at me.  And I wound up by that same sign. But this time, I wasn't falling for it!  My gps was barking at me to TURN LEFT but I was getting on that exit on the right. Which I never did find. What I found was myself back on the road into the center of the town. The one I was trying so hard to escape.

To make a long long story short, I did eventually turn right when the traffic was going left, and tacked  my way out of the worst of the congestion. After two hours of what should have been a half hour detour, I was on the way back home, dental implements in hand. I did learn a valuable lesson though. Next time this happens, I will just follow my regular route home, sit in traffic and wait my turn. The shortest distance between two points is still a straight line, no matter how slow you're traveling. Think about it.