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Big Words: March Madness!!!

by Big Daddy Graham

Potholes. Potholes! It’s enough to drive you mad! And speaking of “mad,” we are gearing up for March Madness, so I thought I would start a yearly tradition and use this tourney time of the year as a means to get some not-so-pleasant matters off my chest. In other words, the little things in life, particularly here in South Jersey, that are driving me mad.

Look, I am thrilled that they are finally correcting that ridiculous merge that they should have done something about decades ago. I have been luckier than Andy Reid (fraud!) over the years that I have managed to avoid an accident there, but it’s not like I haven’t seen my share of them. It’s been horrible. But enough already. The work is taking far too long. With the amount of construction folk out of work in this country, hire as many hard hats that you can, and get it done.

There is no doubt that the single greatest fact about living in the great state of New Jersey is that you don’t have to pump your own gas, and on top of that it’s cheaper than our bordering states. How lucky is that? Then to make things even more amazing are the Wawa gas stations. Not only can you run in and grab yourself a hash brown while your tank’s being filled, their attendants are incredibly polite. I don’t know who does the hiring for Wawa, but I wish they ran the rest of the country.

Often this brutal winter, I have had to push button the window down and yell out “fill her up with regular, credit card” to dudes who are out there pumping in stinking four-degree, wind-howling, snow-blowing, miserable weather. Yet not once, not once, was I ever treated with anything but a smile and a “yes sir.” It’s like they all have “formerly worked at Disney World” on their résumés.

But apparently this message of “treat your customers the way you would like to be treated yourself” hasn’t filtered down to the other gas stations of South Jersey. Look, I will drive on empty for as long as I can till I get to a Wawa, but occasionally I have no choice but to pull up to one of these other stations. The difference is mind-blowing. To them you are nothing but a stinkin’ nuisance. I always feel like I’m interrupting the soccer game that they are beaming in from God knows where on some 10-inch screen in that booth that they hate leaving so much. No “How are you today?” No “Thank you.” I don’t know how they stay in business. Look, it’s a crappy job, no one’s denying that. But I had a million lousy dead-end jobs and I never found it that hard to say “Have a nice day.” Geez Louise!

Dag, I’m still having a hard time dealing with those losses. I have dead relatives I mourned less.

Our entire lives we’ve had to deal with that KYW traffic report sentence. Look, I know there’s poverty and disease out there, and more important problems in this world, I get that. But damn the DRPA are some greedy bastards. It’s not about the “upkeep of the bridge.” They make so much money they fund the Philadelphia Orchestra and the building of a soccer stadium and who knows what else. Now that’s all well and good, but no one asked us if that was cool. Do they have to collect every single possible penny that they can possibly get their grubby hands on? Would they truly go out of business if they closed the tolls down on Sunday evenings during the summer when families are returning from the Shore? Would the bridge collapse and fall into the sea if they opened all the lanes up the mornings of an Eagles game? In my heart, I believe they would still collect enough money for the “upkeep” if they closed the tolls down during rush hour! How radical is that?

I remember once driving over the bridge heading into Philly and the Walt Whitman was under construction. (When isn’t that piece of crap under construction?) It took 50 minutes to get over and when I got to the bottom they still charged me. Anyone ever stop and think how outrageous that is? Not that long ago, I had to get to the 94WIP studio and there was a major blizzard underway. The Ben Franklin Bridge was just a horrible mess. No salt. You couldn’t make out what lane you were riding in. It took forever to carefully drive over it and at 1 a.m. I was the only one idiotic enough to be out.

Yet there was the toll collector. Ready to take my five dollars. They might have made all of 20 bucks in the last hour, but damned if they were not going to get it. Now look, I’m glad the toll collector has a job, but give them something else to do during conditions like that or just let them play Angry Birds. Enough is enough. I swear the first politician who runs on any kind of closing the tolls issue will win in a landslide. Hear that Gov. Christie!

‘Nuff said.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 12 March, 2014).
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