The American Dream Lies between Exit 8A and Exit 8.

This past weekend my wife and I drove from Brooklyn to the Philly suburbs to spend Easter Sunday with my parents. It was a clear and breezy Saturday afternoon; from our view along the highway, the whole state of New Jersey appeared to have sprouted green overnight. Gorgeous is not a word I generally associate with the NJ turnpike, but Saturday afternoon was an exception. Light traffic led to a stress-free drive.

One of the many reasons I love my wife is that she’s got a thing for Cinnabon. So we usually take a quick break at the 2nd rest stop south of Staten Island, and indulge in some good ol’ gooey processed “bun” sugar. Sometimes I buy a scratch-off lottery ticket. It’s fun, this ritual of ours.

I’ve spent a good amount of time over the last three years traveling for YouVisit, which has meant lots of time at airports. And taxi lines. Hotel lobbies. Restaurants. Lounges. Rental car companies. You don’t have to look very hard while traveling to feel the growing gap between what I call the “normies” and the “smart ones.” The normies have to take off their shoes and belts at security. The normies board the plane last. The normies wait in an endless queue at Enterprise. The smart ones are either rich, or they travel often enough to gain “status.” Suddenly travel becomes a little more comfortable, a little less stressful. When I finally reached status with both Delta and Enterprise last year, I genuinely felt like I had made it in life. I was a smart one. LOOK AT ME, WORLD. I’m practically a golden god.

I crashed hard back down to earth when I quickly realized my newfound status was the lowest rung of six or seven status levels. Example: I tried to check in my bags for free, which was my fucking god-given right since I had gained my status. And I was denied by the Delta employee, because I hadn’t booked my ticket with a Delta credit card. Turns out my status-status was only true status-status-status if I’d purchased my flight with American Express, the airline’s partner. I flew into a rage.

This is a long-winded way to say that I’ve grown to appreciate the rest stops along the New Jersey turnpike. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re coming from or where you’re going; everyone’s gotta pee. Everyone’s gotta fill up the tank. Everyone needs caffeine. There is no status. No judgements. It’s the base line that the American Dream is built upon. So next time you’re traveling southbound between Exit 8A and Exit 8 on the turnpike, swing by the Molly Pitcher Service Area, where no one’s better than anyone else, and salute the Stars and Stripes waving proudly out front. We’re in this together, America.

The many sights, sounds and smells of Easter Weekend at a NJ Turnpike rest stop.

The many sights, sounds and smells of Easter Weekend at a NJ Turnpike rest stop.