A friend’s travails with her own daughter’s college search reminded me of one of our adventures last year. My daughter says that when she travels, wacko things happen. Nah, I said. Travel’s all about having wacko stuff happen because you’re some place new.
Then, as we headed out to the airport for a flight to another series of campus visits, the tire blew on our cab’s car, a mile from Newark and practically on the doorstep of the New Jersey Northern State Prison which is right next to the airport. There it was: guard towers, fences with barbed wire and vigilant guards, as we found out.
As our cabbie wrestled with the car, we stood next to the New Jersey Turnpike, cars whizzing by.
“Oh,” said my daughter, “and I feel so secure because we’re next to a high-security prison.”
I focused on prison tower behind her.
“Let me take photo!” I said, whipping out my IPhone and gesturing her to walk closer to the prison fence so I could get the barbed wire in the frame.
A black car pulled up on the other side of the fence and a guy (presumably a New Jersey Department of Corrections Officer, I couldn’t see him, we could only hear him) told us “No photos!”
All right, we said, and walked away. So instead I took photos of my daughter in front of the sign saying Newark was just a half mile away and others of her pretending to try to hail a cab.
Shouts distracted us. A guard was now standing at the fence, yelling at us to stop taking photos and telling us to leave. I tried to be civil and explained we were unable to leave since our cab had a flat tire, pointing to the clearly disabled car, and telling her we had a flight to catch and would be on our way as soon as possible. And, I said, we were taking photos of the highway, not the prison.
No sooner had I walked away from the fence than a NJ DOC van pulled up behind the car and a big guy got out, telling us not to take photos of the prison and to leave immediately.
This was going too far, I decided. I pointed to the cab driver still wrestling with the flat tire and invited the DOC guys to help the poor guy with the tire or (and this I really didn’t mean) take us to the airport if it was so important that we vacate the premises.
This, the guy declined to do. So he hopped into his van and took off.
I emailed my husband, telling him that our cab had broken down next to the prison and we were being swarmed by cops.
“Should I come help?” he valiantly offered.
I hastily explained that we were fine. By that time our cabbie had finished changing the tire and we were on our way to the airport.
My daughter looked at me.
“Okay. Okay!” I said.
And I gave the cabbie a big tip, first because the tire blew and secondly because he gave us such entertainment.