The trip from Edison back to Monmouth County was all ugly highway, Route 287 east into the maze of on- and off-ramps around the Raritan River toll-road exchanges, then south on the Garden State Parkway. The traffic was typically bumper-to-bumper for miles during the afternoon rush, the roadside a war zone of cast-off vehicular junk and a winter’s worth of crusty white snowmelt dust. The back-up at the foot of the Driscoll Bridge, in which all of the southbound 287 traffic flow was forced to merge into a single access lane, was always particularly hellish.
And so this might have been a Wednesday or a Thursday in March, long into the week but not at the finish line, long into the winter but not yet at the end. The five o’clock sun lingering pale and dingy on the horizon, begrudging its warmth. I was working in the advertising department at an electronics retailer called The Wiz that winter, a low-paying job I’d taken the previous March when I was at a loose end. It was a terrible job, but I wouldn’t be suffering in it much longer. The Wiz had declared bankruptcy in December and would be laying me off on March 31st. I was looking forward to taking my scant four weeks severance and leaving. I was in a something of a career funk, you might say.