Closest to the escalator

by Randy Gingeleski

8 minutes to read

What should you do with ephemeral information and data you'll never use again? Accept it.

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In 2019, many Sundays were spent going to Malvern, Pennsylvania while Fridays were spent returning from.

You could go from my apartment door in Jersey City to sitting in a suite at The Desmond in 1 hour 45 minutes easy. We’ll walk through how — before it fades from my brain.

First, there’s some planning involved. You need to schedule a car rental at the EWR Hertz location and reserve that room at The Desmond. It’s part of Doubletree by Hilton — ensure the Hilton app is on your phone.

You can check in from the app on the day of your impending arrival. Pick a room on the first floor if possible. Otherwise, near the staircase that is farthest away from the front desk. There’s a helpful exterior door to that.

While we’re at it, in the Hilton app, we will opt for their Digital Key. This allows you to enter your room without ever going to the front desk.

Desmond hotel room

We additionally need an EZ Pass for the drive. Most Hertz cars will have one in there we can use, but some do not. This will be a speed factor later.

Now you’re in Jersey City, about to start the timer. You summon an Uber. Clock doesn’t start until you walk out the door. Wait for the Uber to get close.

You’ll enter the car. Most drivers will ask you what airport terminal you’re going to — clarify this is a rental car pickup. Instructions may be required as you get close.

Fast-forward 17 minutes. The Uber drops you off and you walk a short distance into the Hertz car selection lot.

Because we’re doing a speed run, it is tempting to pick the first car you see. The way it works here is you can take any car in your section and the keys are in all of them.

However, especially as a Gold or President’s Circle member, you’ll want to prowl your section to see what hidden gems are available. We want something performant.

In my personal experience, we may find the following —

  • BMW 5 Series
  • Jaguar XE
  • Cadillac CTS 3.7L
  • Chrysler 300 S
  • Nissan Maxima
  • Toyota Avalon
  • Chevy Malibu Premier 2.0L
  • Chevy Camaro SS

In roughly descending order of preference.

And cabin comfort comes into play somewhat. It’s why the Camaro is last.

If all else fails, there’s always a Nissan Altima, just grab that. All of these have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay on late models. Virtually all of these have blind spot detection.

Load your luggage into whichever car then plug in your phone. This ensures a quick and reliable setup for Android Auto. Turn on the car then point Google Maps at The Desmond.

Luggage loaded into rental car

Here you might interrupt to ask why we need navigational assistance if we’ve done this run so many times? Google Maps alerts us to police speed traps (!!) and can help us avoid major accidents or construction work.

The calculated ETA will also motivate you like Patton’s Third Army speech.

We’ll now check out of Hertz. Have your driver’s license ready before taking the car out of Park. Pull up to the gate and hand them your license.

Driver's license

They will ask about pre-paying fuel. They always do. Deny it if you’re on business travel — that’s going to be a speed factor on the return trip, and your company policy will pay for Hertz to refuel.

Now we’re going to drive the NJ Turnpike to PA Turnpike. Posted speed limit is 65 MPH but actual flow of traffic is usually 75 MPH or more.

You’ve got at least 3 lanes for a long time and other drivers utilize all of them. That’s where blind spot detection helps on your car. Use all the lanes to maintain an expedient pace.

Our EZ Pass and Google Maps both help to avoid any stops or slowdowns whatsoever.

If you have never driven this route before, it can be likened to Death Race 2000. People drive fast and aggressive.

Police observation of these areas is rare but during the daytime you should be able to spot them if Google Maps doesn’t. Check your rearview mirror often in case an enterprising police vehicle is coming from that way.

This should go without saying — getting pulled over will totally blow our timeline here. And the company won’t reimburse for it.

Fast-forward ~70 minutes and you’ll be at The Desmond. Park near the exterior door mentioned way earlier in the post.

The Desmond hotel parking lot

In my experience, this door never locked properly so you can go right in then walk to your room. Enter it with the Hilton Digital Key via phone.

Check the time. What did I say? 1 hour 45 minutes or less.

You’ll work the week then do the driving parts in back to Newark on Friday. There is some wisdom for the Hertz drop-off.

As mentioned earlier, you should be fine never refueling the car unless it’s coming out of your own pocket. Then you might suck it up for avoid $9.99/gallon gas charges.

Up to you — there is an obvious time cost to getting the gas.

When you get back to Hertz, park in the E-Return lane or otherwise tell the human attendant you’ll take an email receipt.

We need an Uber back to Jersey City but it’s almost impossible to get one at Hertz itself. Believe me I have tried.

You’re better off taking the AirTrain to EWR Terminal A. There are dones of Uber drivers waiting to serve the general airport. You’ll have seen them on the drive to or from.

When you enter the train from the rental car plaza, you will want to take the farthest train car from the escalator.

The first stop from here will be Terminal A. And things are arranged there so that you’ll now be closest to the terminal escalator when the AirTrain pulls in.

Newark AirTrain

As you’re riding over to there, though, request an Uber from your phone. This may require manually typing in “newark terminal a” as your pick-up location.

It’ll prompt you to pick a more specific place within there. “Arrivals Level 2 Passenger Pickup 4” is to the right of the down escalator when you go to get picked up. “Pickup 3” is to the left.

This will make more sense when you go through it once.

Anyway, you’re in the AirTrain now and it is coming into Terminal A. Stand ready at the doors with your stuff. After they open, head straight and to your left to hustle down the escalator.

It’s important to beat all the other people to it so as not to risk anyone standing instead of stomping down the escalator.

Then you’ll hang a right at the bottom, proceed straight to another escalator for “Arrivals Level 2”. Whichever pickup spot you selected for Uber, go there and stand near the curb.

The rest is self-explanatory. Good fortune to you in a smooth Uber pickup and journey back to your Jersey City apartment.

Now — this advice may be helpful to a very niche group of people. Hardly anyone might read to this point in the essay.

I am trying to make a bigger statement.

A group of anonymous consultants

Regardless of COVID-19, I no longer have to travel for work.

But this ritual was something that generated a bit of pride, a bit of satisfaction, a bit of happiness when everything would come together.

There’s a lot of information like that in my brain. Probably your brain too.

My recent-ish break-up — there is a lot of data about my ex that’s now useless in my brain. It will fade away like the background of every other ex-girlfriend in time.

The other thing is that this whole post will become obsolete over time. Hertz may fold. Newark airport may get re-arranged.

We cannot stop change or the passing of time. And it tends to come unexpectedly, out of nowhere.

The last time I went through this whole ritual for work, I had absolutely zero idea it’d be the last real time.

Of course it’s still doable but different when lacking work context.

Even if I hadn’t left my old job, before on a non-Malvern project for a long time could’ve caused this information to rot. Then I would go to execute this routine and it’d lack effectiveness.

The constant of change is something I’ve written about before for people. It’s an easy thing to get sad or wistful about if you let it.

But you can also look forward. What new, wonderful rituals does the future hold?

Time keeps moving, everything keeps moving. There’s nothing you or I can do to stop this phenomenon anyway.

Living in the past will hinder you from living in the future.

Though admittedly, when dropping off cars at Newark airport, I still tend to arrive closest to the escalator at Terminal A.

BMW 5 series with Mark Morrison 'Return of the Mack' on the radio
‘Letting all the people know / That I’m back to run the show’

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