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Time Way Out: The Jug Handle State

“I believe that there’s an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey.”–Woody Allen

This is a summer rerun.   It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I’m in the midst of three days stuck in the so called “Garden State” on business, and I thought, “why shouldn’t I share the pain?”

The unintelligent part of Jersey.

The unintelligent part of Jersey.

I have spent the lion’s share of my adult life working in the pharmaceutical industry.   To be precise, I sell goods and services to pharmaceutical companies.  This is a difficult profession, for it entails enduring one of the most hair raising trials-by-fire in any known line of of work.

I have to drive in New Jersey. 

Unfortunately, due to the high concentration of  pharma companies in the so-called Garden State, I have to drive there often.  At least, I try to.  I sometimes think it would be easier to run in quicksand.  It has taken me 15 minutes, on one occasion, just to cross the street.  I have been 20 minutes late in getting to a location less than a mile away–not because there was a lot of traffic–but because I was pointed the wrong way on Route 22 and the nearest jug handle turnaround was three miles and seven traffic lights in the wrong direction.

It all started away back in the mid-1980’s.  I was driving for the first time to Sandoz in East Hanover.  As I approached my target on Route 10 from the west, there majestically high on hill to my right towered a high-rise with large block letters S-A-N-D-O-Z emblazoned across the top floor.  Brilliant!  I found it and I was on time.  I drove past an intersection, turned right into a parking lot and pulled up to a security gate to register for my sales appointment.

“Sorry sir, this is the service entrance, you need to go to the visitors center at the main gate.”

“Huh? Where’s that?”

The guard pointed to the intersection that I had just passed.  No problem, I was 10 minutes early for my appointment.   All I needed to do was pull out of the security area and turn left.  There was just one problem.  Between me and the traffic going in the other direction was something that looked like the Berlin Wall–complete with barbed wire and machine gun turrets.  It was then that I learned about jug handle turns.  You see, New Jersey has it’s own laws of physics.  In New Jersey, you have to turn right to turn left.  Understanding quantum mechanics is easy compared to understanding traffic patterns in New Jersey.

So I continued in the wrong direction on route 10 until I came to the first jug handle turn; I think this was somewhere near Bangor, Maine.  I came back to the original intersection I had missed, only to find there was no left turn allowed there, either.  This required me to go to the next jug handle, just outside of Allentown, PA.  Needless to say, I was late for my appointment.

It all boils down to this.  Other states have freeways, expressways and thruways; in New Jersey they have no-ways. Once you get on, there is no way to get off.  You have to drive to Delaware to turn around.**    There is one good thing about all of this, though. Here where I live in Connecticut, all the country roads in the woods can be confusing, particularly at night.  In a strange area it is easy to drive around in circles if you don’t have a GPS.   But in New Jersey, you don’t need a GPS to know you have gone wrong.  When you miss your turn in Jersey your whole life starts passing in front of you.   By now I have lived more lives than a cat.

**This literally did happen to me once, though it was actually in southeastern Pennsylvania, which has obviously been mapped out by the same civil engineers that designed New Jersey.  I was on a limited access connecting road and missed my exit.  In order to turn around, I had to drive six miles to the end of the connector–which was in Delaware!

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #9: Lions and Tigers and….SNAKES!! Oh my

“Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag full of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel”–Leanardo da Vinci

“I am working on a new book about a boa constrictor and a litter of hyenas. The boa constrictor swallows the babies one by one, and the mother hyena dies laughing.”–E. B. White

more snakesOphidiophobia.  It’s a fear of snakes, from which many people suffer.  My wife is most certainly not one of them. OK, she’s a veterinarian so it ought not to be a big deal to her.  But let’s just say her non-fear, even love of snakes, is something I learned about very early in our relationship.  Like, within the first fifteen minutes.

It all began one night in June, 39 agonizing years ago.   It was a get-together I organized with a few friends on the occasion of a visit by my sister from the west coast. One of the invitees was the aforementioned Kate (Tales #8).  She brought along a mutual friend of hers and my sister’s.   Of course, that would be Cheryl.  Kate introduced Cheryl to me as a pre-veterinary student at the University of Connecticut, and she added, “come and see the pet snakes in the back of her pickup truck!”  I was not exactly thrilled.  A girl with a pickup truck carting around two pet snakes was not exactly the description of my ideal match.  So of course, I wound up marrying her three years later.

But as snake stories go, that’s not nearly the best one.  In fact, the following story is so #1, there really is no #2.

It started innocently enough one day in mid-August of 1989.  Cheryl went out for her usual late lunch, took her usual catnap in her car, and came back to the office.  But something was clearly up–when she returned to work, the parking lot was packed with a slew of unfamiliar vehicles.  They were news vans.  Channel 3, Channel 8, Channel 25, The Bridgeport Post, The Hartford Courant.  WTF?  What was all this media brouhaha?

Well of course, you’ve figured it out by now.  It was a snake.  But not just any snake, and not just for any normal reason.   It seems that a local Naugatuck woman felt something odd underneath her as she was sitting on the toilet.  It was a six foot boa constrictor.  Honest.  She called the police; they wouldn’t touch it.  The snake stayed in the toilet.  She called Roto Rooter and, no joke, they sent a snake fear-averse serviceman to literally and figuratively snake it out.  The critter was then dispatched to my wife’s practice.  The media loves animal stories, and this was no “dog bites man” run of the mill occurrence.  The story went the 1989 version of viral.  It was picked up by the national wire services and we heard a short mention of it on WCBS newsradio from New York.

So what was the back story?  It seems the previous resident of the apartment in question had owned two boa constrictors.  But the city of Naugatuck has an ordinance against dangerous pets, and this certainly qualified by their standards.   He was reported to the authorities and ordered to get rid of them.    He obliged; or so he said.  Apparently his definition of “rid” was to simply let them loose.

Anyway, the snake was unharmed and shortly transferred to a wild life rehabilitator who eventually found it a legal home.

But wait a minute.  There were two of them.  But there was no immediate sign of the second one.   The residents searched and found nothing–well almost nothing.  A few weeks later, they found a shed snakeskin.   This was not taken as a good sign.  Finally, some six weeks after the original event, my wife got a call from the Naugatuck police.

“We found the second one.  Please come get it.”

She obliged, and got to the residence within a few minutes.  There she found a Naugatuck cop sitting on the front porch, his service revolver drawn.

“Really!!?”  Her reaction was typical Cheryl.  “Are you afraid it’s going to make a break for it?’

Honestly, boa constrictors are not what you would call “speedy.’

She collected the animal and headed back to her office.   When she got there, guess what?

News vans.  Again.   Channel 8.  Channel 3. Etc.   The New Haven Register, having missed the first story, was quick to the scene that Friday, and the story landed on the top of their front page the next day, Saturday, September 23, 1989.   It appeared approximately as shown below, right above a story that Irving Berlin had died 101 that same day.

snakes

 

 

As you may have guessed by now, though, the story did not end here.  Although the second snake wound up with the same wild life rehabilitator,  it made another stop first.  Cheryl, vividly remembering our very first meeting, brought the snake home that evening in an attempt to freak me out.   It didn’t work;  after 14 years with her I’d grown accustom to pranks like this.  But it did freak out our daughter’s somewhat timid nanny, Lynn.   While we were out to dinner, the writhing monster escaped from the box it had been brought home in,  leaving poor Lynn with little option but to muster up her courage and stuff it back in.   To her credit, she did it, and she didn’t quit her job.

Is there a moral to this story?  Of course there is.   Be careful what you marry;  it might come slithering back to bite you.

Cheers  😀

Signature

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Time Way Out: The Jug Handle State

“I believe that there’s an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey.”–Woody Allen

The unintelligent part of Jersey.

The unintelligent part of Jersey.

I have spent the lion’s share of my adult life working in the pharmaceutical industry.   To be precise, I sell goods and services to pharmaceutical companies.  This is a difficult profession, for it entails enduring one of the most hair raising trials-by-fire in any known line of of work.

I have to drive in New Jersey. 

Unfortunately, due to the high concentration of  pharma companies in the so-called Garden State, I have to drive there often.  At least, I try to.  I sometimes think it would be easier to run in quicksand.  It has taken me 15 minutes, on one occasion, just to cross the street.  I have been 20 minutes late in getting to a location less than a mile away–not because there was a lot of traffic–but because I was pointed the wrong way on Route 22 and the nearest jug handle turnaround was three miles and seven traffic lights in the wrong direction.

It all started away back in the mid-1980’s.  I was driving for the first time to Sandoz in East Hanover.  As I approached my target on Route 10 from the west, there majestically high on hill to my right towered a high-rise with large block letters S-A-N-D-O-Z emblazoned across the top floor.  Brilliant!  I found it and I was on time.  I drove past an intersection, turned right into a parking lot and pulled up to a security gate to register for my sales appointment.

“Sorry sir, this is the service entrance, you need to go to the visitors center at the main gate.”

“Huh? Where’s that?”

The guard pointed to the intersection that I had just passed.  No problem, I was 10 minutes early for my appointment.   All I needed to do was pull out of the security area and turn left.  There was just one problem.  Between me and the traffic going in the other direction was something that looked like the Berlin Wall–complete with barbed wire and machine gun turrets.  It was then that I learned about jug handle turns.  You see, New Jersey has it’s own laws of physics.  In New Jersey, you have to turn right to turn left.  Understanding quantum mechanics is easy compared to understanding traffic patterns in New Jersey.

So I continued in the wrong direction on route 10 until I came to the first jug handle turn; I think this was somewhere near Bangor, Maine.  I came back to the original intersection I had missed, only to find there was no left turn allowed there, either.  This required me to go to the next jug handle, just outside of Allentown, PA.  Needless to say, I was late for my appointment.

It all boils down to this.  Other states have freeways, expressways and thruways; in New Jersey they have no-ways. Once you get on, there is no way to get off.  You have to drive to Delaware to turn around.**    There is one good thing about all of this, though. Here where I live in Connecticut, all the country roads in the woods can be confusing, particularly at night.  In a strange area it is easy to drive around in circles if you don’t have a GPS.   But in New Jersey, you don’t need a GPS to know you have gone wrong.  When you miss your turn in Jersey your whole life starts passing in front of you.   By now I have lived more lives than a cat.

**This literally did happen to me once, though it was actually in southeastern Pennsylvania, which has obviously been mapped out by the same civil engineers that designed New Jersey.  I was on a limited access connecting road and missed my exit.  In order to turn around, I had to drive six miles to the end of the connector–which was in Delaware!

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #5: Count the Cats!

“Dogs are my favorite people.”–Richard Dean Anderson

9c) Mark Anderson www.andertoons.com

(c) Mark Anderson
http://www.andertoons.com

Bethany, CT is just a typical, quiet New England exurban town.  Now.  But some thirty years ago, when Cheryl started working there, it was still imbued with a certain quirky character hailing from its agrarian Yankee roots.  The vet she worked for was a lanky, laconic and formal kind of guy who actually wore a tie to work, even on the road for large animal barn calls.  If Dickens were alive in the 1980’s and living in New England,  he would have found all the persona inspiration he could ever need right there in Bethany.   This story hails from that era.

The client, Cathy X, was a groom at a local stable.  She was short, chubby, slovenly and smelled like her work.  It seems her dog, a massive Russian Wolfhound, was in distress, and she let Cheryl know about it the instant she walked in the clinic door.

Borzoi, or Russian Wolfhound

Borzoi, or Russian Wolfhound

“He’s got a twisted gut, I just know it.”

“What’s going on, Cathy?” My wife was a bit skeptical up front.

“Well…um…,” the exasperated woman could hardly get her words out, ” he’s  lethargic, not eating,  and his stomach is distended.”

Cheryl felt around and disagreed, it just didn’t feel like a torsion.  She thought it was just an upset stomach.  But the client persisted.

“Ok, Cathy, I’ll try a stomach tube and see what that yields.”

The idea here was simple, if the gut was twisted, the stomach tube would not pass.  In went the tube–all the way in.   Seek and ye shall find.   VARRROOOOM.   Almost immediately there arose a torrent of projectile vomiting.   But it was not just gunk.  It was black and white fur, followed by a completely intact trachea and set of lungs!

“OH MY GOD!  I BETTER GO HOME AND COUNT THE CATS!”

Momentary silence (while everyone in the office painfully held back laughter).

“Um, maybe not,” my wife protested, “these organs are way too big to be a cat.  And the smell…ugh.”

I assume by now you have figured it out.  If not, let’s just say it was a mistake worthy of Pepe Le Pew.

You now have permission to hold your nose pending my next smelly post.

Signature    @MarkSackler

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