EKG across NJ

Please don't make me get into this vehicle again.

Yesterday's trek across New Jersey looked like an EKG strip. We drove in all cardinal and tertiary directions.

Jared and I awoke at my parents house in Hunterdon County and ate a bowl of sweet cereal apiece. We were on the road before my son was up. He does not like that. Jared and I don't like it too much, either, but to arrive at 8:30 a.m. at an environmental conference in Newark, the early embarkation was necessary.

We arrived in Newark at the appointed time. The cereal had worn off. I chatted with colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and strangers on my way to a table with platters of danishes, muffins, and bagels. I selected a rectangular-shaped flour boat covered in granulated sugar and a blueberry muffin. For protein and nutrition, I slathered each with several pats of butter.

I poured myself a cup of decaf and impatiently breathed down the neck of the man who was good-humoredly breathing down the neck of the woman who was chatting to another woman hovering around the sugar. Four environmentalists, one bowl of sugar very early in the morning.

It was Saturday. Have I mentioned it was Saturday? This particular conference always occurs on the first nice Saturday of the year. Did I mention it was early? And that my mother had already called me to say my son awoke a little distraught? And would I like to talk to him? Or did I think it better to not remind him that I existed?

The early wake-up, the phone call, the decaf, the chalky tasting orange juice, the baked goods, and my impending presentation (due to begin at 10:15 a.m. in room 240) all caused an unsettled lower intestine. Jared dashed off with his thumb drive to give his presentation (due at 9 a.m.).

Later in the morning, my co-presenters and I gave our talk at lightning speed. After the question and answer session, I ambled through the hall of exhibitors, following the smell of lunch. At lunch, Jared cracked some jokes at the expense of a famous New Jersey author who does not wanted to be filmed at public events.

One of the people dining with us has seen the author speak recently and had observed cameras in the room. "Maybe the camera was an electromagnetic field disruptor, blocking the functionality of cameras  or a spirit capture device. Come on, think outside the box," Jared said.

His comment was met with blank stares and barely suppressed laughs by only myself and one other diner. Environmental conferences are not known for big laughs. My arm brushed against my right breast and I felt a painful smarting - a plugged milk duct, which sometimes happens when I get poor sleep.

From the conference in Newark, we drove down Route 9 to a defunct nursery on the outer coastal plain. The owner had invited us to take some pots and trays before he dumpstered the operation. We clambered into a partially roofless mobile home and tossed 10" by 20" flats (called 10 20s in trade lingo) and pots out the back door.

Water the color of tannins leached from pine needles, or the color of god knows what leached from pink fiberglass insulation, dripped onto my forehead each time Jared handed me another stack of weathered nursery supplies.

We filled the RAV4 with 10 20 flats and quart pots and headed west towards Trenton and then up through Pennington to our home in Hillsborough. We tossed the pots in the backyard and climbed back into the car. Our final destination was LongHorn Steakhouse Restaurant in Flemington to meet my parents, brother, his girlfriend, and our son.

The lot was packed. My parents were late. I called my brother and got no answer. This was very atypical behavior of my family. My digestive system was backing up into my brain, and I considered ordering an appetizer at the bar or driving off to find my son.

The wait for a table of 7 would be 35 minutes the hostess said. We had put our names in 20 minutes earlier, and at that time the wait was also 35 minutes. Another electromagnetic field disruptor at work. At this time, my head was pounding and the top quarter of my right breast was red and angry-painful.

We drove to Five Guys to get a round of burgers and fries. My son devoured the fries. I shoved a wilted piece of lettuce into his mouth a couple times. "Look, Mom is trying to keep it healthy," my brother quipped.

After dinner, my mother wished us all safe drives, noting that we had the shortest drive of all.