* If the right lane is closed for construction, don't believe it. It's really just a contest to see how many people can cut in line by passing you on the right as you sit in the left lane waiting for the same jerks to squeeze their way back in before hitting the construction barrels. It's even more fun when they encounter the guy who sticks his car into that right lane to prevent it. FISH ADVICE: Feel free to be either of these people, but only if you are armed and talk like you are from New Jersey.
* Turn signals are just clues as to your next move in road battle so never use them. People will take advantage of you if they see the blink of your turn signal. FISH ADVICE: Maintain an aura of mystery and unpredictability--swerve often without signaling.
* Under no circumstances should you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, or the space will be filled in by somebody else putting you in an even more dangerous situation. As noted above, they will not use a turn signal when they do this. FISH ADVICE: It's only tailgating if you hit the guy. It's only a crime if they catch your license plate as you flee. Go ahead and do it.
* Crossing two or more lanes in a single lane-change is considered going with the flow. FISH ADVICE: Go ahead, but remember--DON'T use your turn signal! Extra credit if you do it and squeeze into a space someone has inadvertently left between themselves and the car in front of them.
* The faster you drive through a red light, the smaller the chance you have of getting hit. Amazing how this works. FISH ADVICE: Just remember to stop at green lights because you have no idea who is coming. And look twice--someone might be turning from the far lane here. Seriously.
* Never, ever come to a complete stop at a stop sign. No one expects it and it will inevitably result in you being rear ended. If you want your insurance company to pay for a new rear bumper, come to a complete stop at all stop signs. FISH ADVICE: Lower your deductible and stop.
* Braking is to be done as hard and late as possible to ensure that your ABS kicks in. I think Jersey drivers do this if they have ABS to get that nice, relaxing foot massage from the pulsating brake pedal. Those without ABS just use it as an excuse to "stretch their legs." FISH ADVICE: Get a rental with ABS. You'll be glad you did.
* Never pass on the left when you can pass on the right. It's a good way to scare people entering the highway. This is even more important when the person in the right lane is driving slow....like less than 90 miles per hour. FISH ADVICE: Pretend your on a slalom course--just bob and weave, bob and weave...
* As above, I think speed limits are just arbitrary figures, more like suggestions than laws. For some reason, the speeding laws don't seem enforceable in New Jersey during rush hour...or at any other time for that matter. FISH ADVICE: High Octane.
* Picture yourself in the left lane. You're going bumper to bumper, so that would be about 75 mph. You have no room to speed up nor do you have room to move over. In New Jersey, it seems perfectly acceptable for the kind gentleman behind you to flash his high beams behind you. I think it's because he thinks he can go faster in your spot. FISH ADVICE: You can either swerve left without signaling or come to a complete stop, either of which should solve your problem. You can also wave to him, with the Jersey salute. You thought New Yorkers invented that? You thought wrong.
* Please remember that there is no such thing as a shortcut during rush-hour traffic in New Jersey. FISH ADVICE: Get out and talk to your new neighbors. They're friendlier when out of the car. Bonus points if they share their beer with you. Even better if it's from the can they were sipping while weaving through traffic when it was moving.
* The only time you should EVER slow down on a New Jersey roadway is if you see an accident. On the other side of the road. FISH ADVICE: Go with the flow, rubberneck with the slow.
* Learn to swerve abruptly. There are three seasons for New Jersey drivers. Construction Season, Pothole Season and Not-Pothole Season. The third of those is just a rumor. Potholes are always found in key locations to test your reflexes and keep you on your toes. FISH ADVICE: Keep your eyes open...and DON'T come to a complete stop (as noted above).
* If you look split second up in the dictionary anywhere in the world, you'll find something like this:
–noun 1. a fraction of a second.
2. an infinitesimal amount of time; instant; twinkling.
In New Jersey, it's a little different...and shorter. The tradition in New Jersey to honk your horn at cars that don't move the instant the light changes. The time between the light change and the honk is a New Jersey Split Second. Scientist have been baffled in attempts to quantify this moment. Fish Advice: Have fun with it--see how good you can get. Extra credit if you can scare another person from your home state.
* Remember that the goal of every New Jersey driver is to get there first, by whatever means necessary. Rules are, there are no rules. Fish Advice: Don't be the person that gets in their way. Ever.
* There is a unique subspecies of New Jersey drivers which warrants a special notice. New Jersey's Women Drivers can put on pantyhose and apply eye makeup at seventy-five miles per hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic, while lighting their cigarette, talking on the cell phone and balancing their family's budget on the open laptop in the seat next to them. They view people who steer with anything less than their left knee an amateur. Fish Advice: Admire them. There's nothing in the world quite like it.
People ask me if I'm glad to be home, and I can't find the words to express the relief I feel. The color has returned to most of my knuckles. Most of my teeth still have the enamel on them, though I have questions about a couple of the back ones.
I went for a ride with Mrs. Fish to the grocery store today. It was nice and relaxing, and easy to drive, until she looked over and asked if 75 was a little fast to go through the neighborhood, or if it might be wise for me to actually stop at stop signs. I looked at her, smiled and said, "Fuggetaboutit."
Then I swerved across three lanes of traffic and made a left turn on red.