Part of what it means to be an American is the ability to do whatever the fuck you want inside of your car, unless it involves drinking and driving. This space is a welcomed extension of many American homes. It can double as a portable office, pet or child daycare, a personal movie theatre, video arcade, beauty salon or barber shop. It could also function as a personal storage unit, restaurant, or man cave. For many US citizens, this is the shelter where one can shove a Big Mac and fries down the gullet while “chatting” with their boss over the speakerphone—with the mute button, of course. And hey! They won't know if you’re not wearing any pants!
But for drivers in the state of New Jersey, a recently proposed law could make productive car activities disappear forever. No more smoking, calling up the American Idol hotline on your cell phone, fidgeting with the radio, or crushing a Double Down in the fast lane. Last week, the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee unanimously voted to advance the proposed bill.
I’m not a resident of New Jersey, but I frequently travel through the place. I’m devastated that the freedom to multi-task inside of one's moving vehicles could become compromised.The current wording of the bill is vague, which has set off a hailstorm of criticism and debate surrounding the potential law. Yesterday, in my own act of protest, I decided to take a fast food joyride around New Jersey to soak in as much mobile freedom and frying oil as possible.
I’ve been to fast food drive-thrus a million times, but yesterday’s journey to the Bloomfield, New Jersey, McDonalds felt illicit. I felt like some sort of freedom fighter as I slowly drove up next to the menu board. To hear that magical phrase, “Can I help you?” echo from the loudspeaker was the answer to my tax-paying prayers.
McDonalds has stepped up their game with their menu options. Big time. There’s the bacon habanero ranch quarter pounder, endless wraps, and, what the fuck? Chicken wings? I realized I need to drive to New Jersey more often.
“Can I help you sir?”
I snapped out of my state of awe at all the new menu items. “Let me get a double-quarter pounder with cheese, a Coke, and an M&M McFlurry,” I said to the voice on the other end.
I did the great American ritual of fumbling for my wallet while my car hovered in the idle position. I wondered if that could be considered “illegal” if the bill goes into effect, and gleefully paid the pleasantly plump woman at the first window. But when I coasted toward the second window to pickup my food, I met a strikingly young looking guy who handed me my freedom fries. “Did you know that it’s probably going to be illegal to eat in your car while you're driving in New Jersey pretty soon?” I blurted out uncontrollably.
“Seriously? That’s fucked up,” he responded, immediately recognizing that he just cursed at me. Without missing a customer service beat, he said, “Thank you, come again.”
When I normally order at a drive-thru, I like to pull over on the side of the road for a solid minute or so to get my shit together and ensure that my order is correct. This time around, I decided to cut New Jersey some slack and keep on rolling out into the streets. It was time to get the hell out of this state, onwards to New York, where it’s still America, goddamnit. With one hand on the steering wheel, I reached for my burger with the other. I smashed the box wide open, like a baboon on Adderall. I took my first bite as my car geared its way up to 40 MPH. “Now this is fucking living,” I said out loud.
I managed to consume the meal while safely operating my vehicle. Even in the midst of touching my grease-coated steering wheel, I wedged the McFlurry betwixt my legs so that I could dip into its gloriousness without danger. I survived. The only safety precaution I took was denying myself ketchup from the squeeze packet.
A quick belch later, my stomach went into a rumbling mode of gurgles, but I had no regrets. As long as I’m alive, I’ll always believe that eating a damn burger behind the wheel is a freedom that should never be compromised, even in the Garden State.