I’m standing in the middle of a corn maze in Chester, New Jersey and I’m pissed.
“I hope you’re happy,” I say to my friend Alicia. “We’re lost.”
“What’s the point of going to a corn maze if you don’t get lost?” she says. “That’s the fun part.”
When a guy goes into a maze he wants to get out of it quickly. It arouses our competitive urge and desire to prove our superior sense of direction. Women? They think it’s romantic to get lost. If men are from Mars then women are from a planet in the Magellanic Cloud. It amazes me that we ever reproduce at all. That’s probably why God created alcohol.
“I wonder how many couples breakup in here,” I say.
“Don’t be a jerk.”
When I looked at the map prior to heading into this maize labyrinth I got a good sense of the direction we should travel. I was a Boy Scout. I know how to use a map and compass. I seldom get lost. But Alicia wanted to go her way. After a little spat I caved in and plunged off what I knew was the beaten path.
“Did you hear Matt Damon was here last week?” I say, trying to ignore the people going in the other direction muttering that they’re lost.
“I wonder if his wife wanted to get lost.” No response.
I look up at the sky to get my bearings. We’re heading away from the exit. Oh well, at least we have donuts and warm apple cider to keep us nourished.
“Look,” Alicia says, pointing to a sign that reads, “No Smoking in the Maze.”
“Setting this maze on fire would certainly motivate people.”
“Don’t be so mean.”
“It could be a reality TV show,” I say. “You have ten minutes to get out of the maze before they napalm it. Now that’s entertainment.”
“Maybe they could have a Minotaur running around here.”
Somewhere in the maze I hear a small child having an epic meltdown. “Cheetahs,” I say. “Cheetahs who haven’t eaten in a week and have acquired a taste for little kids.”
“How about wolves? Demented guys in hockey masks with sharp cutlery? It would be glorious.” Alicia sighs.
“And all the girls who thought it’d be cool to get lost would perish,” I say. “Evolution at work.”
“What would you do if that happened?” Alicia says.
“I’d cheat,” I say, “Cheetah coming after me? I’d crash through the maze and get out.”
“Better have a machete.”
After a few minutes of bewildering turns and dead ends Alicia decides she’s sick of being lost. It was only a matter of time. Of course, now she wants me to get us out of here. Typical.
“Oh no,” I say. “We’re lost. It’s so romantic.”
“There’s a map station over there,” she says. “Lets see if we can make sense of this place.”
When you enter the maze you’re given a map that can only be read when you slip it under a piece of special plastic at one of four way stations. I know I can get us out if I can read the map, but I can’t – some yuppie couple is hogging it.
We wait patiently for a few minutes but the couple won’t budge and I begin to tap my foot impatiently. It’s getting dark and a light rain is falling. I notice the guy’s fashionably dressed in an autumn hip suede jacket with an expensive camera hanging from his neck. He must be from Manhattan. Truth be told, I saw a lot of New York plates in the parking lot. He better get a move on. Rain wrecks suede.
“Did you see that cartoon in the New Yorker?” I ask Alicia. “It shows a bunch of zombie-like Manhattanites going, ‘Must see foliage! Must buy cider! Must buy gourds!’”
“Yeah I did,” Alicia says.
“These people make fun of our state but then come out here to play. Ugh, why can’t they leave us in peace?”
“Because they don’t have enough trees?”
Sick of waiting for the yuppies to tear themselves away from the map I decide to take matters into my own hands. Because the maze is closing in half an hour, the kids who work here are helping people get out.
“How do we get out of here?” I ask a thin teenage boy.
“Go behind that way station you just passed,” he says. “Make a left and then nothing but rights.”
“How many couples have broken up in this maze?”
The boy smiles broadly. “We’ve seen a couple of disagreements in here.”
As Alicia and I begin our trek out of the maize we pass by the hapless Yuppies still gazing at the map. I decide not to clue them in on the way out. I don’t like suede jackets.
“The way you wanted to go wasn’t the right way out either,” Alicia says as we head towards freedom That’s true. After we got off my path I got totally disoriented.
“I guess I’m not as Natty Bumppo as think I am.”
Finally we exit the maze and head to the bakery to buy more donuts. I’m on such a sugar high it’s not funny. But damn if those doughnuts aren’t good.
“Did you have fun?” Alicia asks.
“Yes,” I say, eating my fourth doughnut of the afternoon. “And the doughnuts were the best part.”
As we silently chase our fat and glucose treats with sugary cider I look around me. The trees swaying in the breeze make the forest look like a gently rippling sea of red and golden fire. New Jersey is such a beautiful place. It’s shame some people from Manhattan look down on us. We’re not just IKEA, corruption, shopping malls, The Turnpike and the Sopranos. We’re horse country, gentle rivers, glorious beaches, deep woods and small towns. A couple of days ago I climbed a small mountain in Morris County and saw a white church spire gleaming as the setting sun cast it’s light on the burning valley below. It took my breath away. New York City’s a fun place, but next to the Jersey countryside Central Park looks like a backyard.
“Ready to go?” Alicia asks.
But as we drive out of the parking lot I can only wonder. Are Matt Damon and his wife still together? Hmm…….