“A Tale of Two Counties”
I have always lived on the cusp and have immensely enjoyed doing so. I don’t exactly mean that I was born between two astrological zodiac signs. I mean I live on the edge, and this pattern of behavior makes others (especially educational bureaucrats who fear on-a-mission teachers) “edgy” because of my proclivity for adventure and because of my inclination for challenging arbitrary executive decisions.
In my short history on this planet I have always exploited the maverick and the iconoclast role to the hilt. I generally root for the underdog and hope that he or she wins big over the favorite. I instinctively despise bureaucracy and prefer to pursue simplicity in all my mundane endeavors. As a rule I like unusual things and topics, and I certainly am not a blustery politician or an impractical businessman. I don’t have to “kiss-up” to anybody and I’d definitely prefer kicking someone’s butt rather than smooching it. As Popeye would often say and maintain, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”
Being a true -blooded “cusper” does have its attendant rewards. My teacher pension is secure after completing thirty-four years of dedicated public school service. This new-found independence I cherish affords me unique privileges. I can write controversial Hammonton Gazette opinion columns and get local residents all riled up, I can author R-rated adult novels with relative impunity, and I have the opportunity and the luxury of sharing my self-gratifying singularity with separate newspaper and book readerships. I don’t have to worry about losing my job because I have no job to lose, and I relish every moment of it. That’s why both acquaintances and enemies regard me as a dangerous person. I just don’t care what others think when I obey my moral compass.
I not only figuratively live on the cusp. I actually literally reside on the cusp, too. My house physically exists in two New Jersey counties. I like it that way. It adds variety to my life. My geographic status is consistent with my personality characteristics and with my life. This is how the entire two-county phenomenon spontaneously developed.
My wife and I had gotten tired of living in five-room apartments. First we lived in Hammonton Arms on Valley Avenue when that project was new back in the late ‘60s, and then we lived several years in Della Court Apartments on Park Avenue just off Egg Harbor Road. It was time to get serious as parents and have a house built but my wife Joanne and I wanted our children to attend Hammonton Public Schools in Atlantic County (New Jersey) because we both taught there. We were in sort of a quandary about how to solve our minor dilemma but thanks to a stroke of good luck, we did.
Chris Rehmann, the Hammonton town engineer, did a comprehensive survey of my father-in-law’s (Joe Battaglia) farm property and discovered that Joe owned a hundred feet of land in Atlantic County that he never knew about. Joanne and I appeared before a local planning board and acquired fifty-foot frontage of additional land in Winslow Township by having one of my father-in-law’s Camden County land parcels subdivided. Then we had our creative subdivisions approved in both Atlantic and Camden Counties to form a standard-size building lot and the tax assessors agreed that the Town of Hammonton would tax the home and the additional fifty-foot stretch of land would subsequently be taxed by Winslow Township.
The green “Now Entering Town of Hammonton” highway’ sign on the White Horse Pike is not the true Atlantic/Camden County-Line. An observer must perceptively look at my house situated across the street from the boundary-line highway designation. The middle of my porch is the real county division, so when I pensively pace around inside my side screen porch, I inadvertently keep moving from county to county as I become thoroughly geographically disoriented.
Whenever a traffic accident happens on Route 30 (which is referred to by locals as “the Pike”), I automatically dial 911 not thinking that someone might have hit a pole in Winslow Township, Camden County. My 911 street’ address is hooked-up with Hammonton in Atlantic County, and I must commend the Hammonton Police Department because the officers will professionally and promptly respond to the emergency in Winslow Township, direct the four-lane highway traffic and attend to the accident victims until the Winslow Township Police arrive to take over those responsibilities.
Late last summer I was about to trim a large yew bush on the Hammonton side of my U-shaped asphalt driveway. I thought I had observed a big white bag stuck inside the yew shrub so I reached inside to grab and remove the object. I soon frightfully discovered that the circular white bag was a honest-to-goodness hornets’ nest. Several nasty warrior wasps flew out of their well-constructed domicile and persistently buzzed around my head. I scampered rather frantically one hundred feet to the safety of my home’s laundry room, wildly slamming the entrance door to my garage behind me. I soon realized that I had received a painful arm sting from one of the angry neurotic insects. My mind was naturally contemplating revenge.
After conscientiously applying a generous application of rubbing alcohol to my left shoulder I decided to wage battle against the ornery and undesirable wasp colony. I hopped into my Buick LeSabre, made sure that the power windows were up and then slowly drove the vehicle out of my garage, turned it around and next methodically progressed forward toward the White Horse Pike. I gently rammed the yew bush with my car’s left front fender, intentionally and gleefully disturbing the seemingly tranquil hornet’ colony.
I delighted watching agitated wasps swarm in a disorganized frenzy around my LeSabre’s windshield. I felt protected and insulated from imminent danger. Feeling entirely safe, I cheerfully laughed at the insects’ futility and at their general confusion and incompetence. I deliberately crashed into the wasp-hive nine consecutive times while I amply savored the annoyance I had initiated and the frenetic insect activity that enveloped my automobile. I was administering to the buzzing and incensed nervous critters a well-deserved intrusion. In my illustrious perception of ongoing events I knew that superior human intellect was successfully transcending primitive bug instinct. I was indeed the supreme master of my environment.
Finally I determined that I had executed on the agitated wasps sufficient retribution for my still throbbing shoulder sting. I skillfully backed up my reliable auto’ to the front section of my driveway. When I confidently halted my reverse movement I quickly perceived that a hostile guard’ wasp had somehow managed to wriggle its way inside the car. My cocky nonchalance suddenly converted into unbridled panic. My general conceited suaveness soon changed into an exasperating “fight or flight” mode. I discreetly chose “flight” as the more intelligent and discreet alternative. I had underestimated my all-too-determined instinct-guided opponent.
My body instantly exited my metallic blue Buick in a hurry and then I swiftly sprinted westward to avoid the disturbed insect’s mounting wrath. All the while the furious wasp buzzed around my head, madder than a hornet. ‘That angry hornet has a bee in its bonnet!’ I remember thinking as I scurried onward. ‘I need sanctuary quick!’
I dashed toward my mother-in-law’s White Horse Farm Market with every iota of energy my legs could muster and anxiously scurried down the dirt road a full six hundred feet until the nasty territorial hornet abandoned its pursuit. I logically stopped my escape enterprise, extremely exhausted and completely out-of-breath from the arduous episode. Then I realized something rather significant. ‘I’m really very lucky,’ I rationally thought, ‘because that hostile berserk out-of-control hornet was so angry that he had chased me clear into another county.’