In May, I was stopped in Hazlet NJ for of all things...failure to proceed. The officer must have been really bored to bust my stones over such pettiness. He saw I wasn't wasted, heard my story and checked my credentials. Everything was in order, so I was given a stern warning and released back in to the wild.
In July at the Grand Canyon, we stayed after dark to hear an outdoor nature presentation. After getting a snack, the road to civilization was empty...except for a peculiar "army of one," skinny, hyper-tense park ranger. He stopped me for, rolling through a stop sign. While I stated my case, I controlled myself from making a Barney Fife joke. Then, I remained courteous while his rambling safety rigmarole went on and on. He took my papers back to his jeep for an eternity...luckily, this member of Arizona's finest returned without a moving violation ticket (yay me). But Officer Fife did take the opportunity to continue reprimanding me with a seemingly 50-minute lecture.
THE HAT LOOKS MORE AUTHORITATIVE ON A MYTHICAL CHARACTER THAN IT DID ON MY BARNEY FIFE-LIKE NATIONAL PARK RANGER.
In both instances a young driver would have definitely got the citation. That is what is scaring me about the fruit of my loin (Andrew) warming up in the bullpen and getting ready to drive this spring. I've already heard from readers of this column and other friends, that their kids have gotten wacky traffic tickets...which is bad enough. But the idea of getting into avoidable...minor and not so minor accidents...tests my continence !
Up till now, I have had complete faith in my son. However, being behind the wheel will be a challenge and a whole new reality. Between his inexperience and the endless supply of morons on the road...worrying about him driving will infinitely transcend anything he's ever caused me to be stressed over.
So with that in mind, what's better than me talking two cops out of giving me a ticket? The answer LAYS both literally and figuratively, on Atlantic City's Mansion Avenue.
For the uninitiated, I work as a swing shift roulette dealer in Atlantic City, (8PM till 4AM). Like any job, casino work has its physical and mental ups and downs. So its like an unwritten bonus after a rough shift that my 20-minute commute home is overwhelmingly calm and pleasant...to the point of being mellow.
A crimp in this perk is the unnecessary delays due to the antiquated, unsynchronized sequence of traffic lights. Sometimes I think the city, in conjunction with the casinos, purposely keeps people heading out from making any of the lights. If my conspiracy theory is correct, this subliminal ploy would be aimed to frustrate degenerate gamblers...luring them back to the tables. But deep down, I doubt the local politicians are that clever.
To speed-up my nightly escape, I was turned-on to Mansion Avenue, to bypass three uncoordinated lights. This Mansion Avenue is like the seven-foot clean-up guy nicknamed "Tiny" from Canarsie's Seaview Pool. Therefore, you shouldn't be deceived by this street's name...its not a broad thoroughfare and I doubt there's been any stately manors there for a hundred years.
YOU WON'T FIND "THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES" ESTATE ON MANSION AVENUE OR ANYTHING ELSE CLEAN.
What Mansion Avenue is, is a disgusting one-way alley that runs parallel to the traditional route, out of town. At 4AM, this short-cut is desolate. On the rare occasion that someone is out there, the time-saving motorist shouldn't be shocked to see; hookers, homeless people, drug pushers and their clientele. Other points of interest include; a scuzzy motel, a hand-full of dilapidated apartment houses (both condemned and in use...but yearning to be condemned), a dirty bookstore, two isolated row homes, a massage parlor and a ton of vacant lots that resemble Hiroshima after the blast.
THIS APARTMENT HOUSE IS THE CROWNED JEWEL OF MANSION AVENUE.
Over the past five years, I have encountered this narrow passage to be be partially blocked by displaced dumpsters, abandoned appliances, discarded mattresses and poorly parked cars. Although there's never been an incident, I still keep my windows closed even when there isn't anyone around.
Last month, I was once again lucky in my car. I turned onto Mansion Avenue and passed the Sluts-R-Us Motel. My eye then caught what I hoped was a skulking, shiny black cat or a possum with back problems. After passing it, I glanced over my shoulder for a second look. I was repulsed by the over-sized rodent and focused back on the road. Suddenly, I hit my brakes because a rolled-up carpet had been tossed three-quarters of the way into the street. I had time and enough room to swerve around but as I did, I noticed it wasn't a rug, it was a bum, (that's a 60's term for a drunk),. He was passed-out with his ankles on the sidewalk, his lower torso straddling the curb and his head at a 45 degree angle "facing" on coming traffic.
If I hit that guy, the vehicular manslaughter charges against me would have ruined my day. And its quite possible, HIS crushed cranium wouldn't have been too much fun for him either!
Hopefully, my son will never take such short-cuts and won't be distracted by speaking on the phone, doing homework, texting or eating his Taco Bell lunch while driving. However, checking out cat-sized rats is like watching a guy teetering on whether or not to jump off a bridge...or in Atlantic City's case, the roof of a casino garage. You know you shouldn't look...but you can't take your eyes off it. Therefore, it can happen to anyone...its human nature...I...I mean the unfortunate dude laying across Mansion Avenue and me...just got lucky this time.