Christopher Carillo is a 22 year old, self described “upper senior” from Central Matawan, New Jersey. He travels, by car, at least five days a week, from his home to the College of Staten Island (CSI), where he is working on a bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communications. I recently caught up with Chris to inquire about what it takes to have to commute over state lines just to get to class.
by Anthony Ferrara
The Banner: Okay, first things first; tell me about yourself. Who is Chris Carillo?
Chris: Well, I was actually born in Puerto Rico and lived there until I was about four years old. My parents divorced when I was one, and so my mother ended up meeting my step-father a couple years later when he was in Puerto Rico on business. Long story short, that’s how I ended up moving to the United States — to Staten Island. It was quite a culture shock for me. I remember the first time I saw snow (laughs). It was crazy to me; I had never seen anything but rain fall from the sky my whole life! Fortunately, I was already bilingual by the time that we came to America. I can still read and write Spanish, but I don’t speak it anymore. Anyhow, we moved to Staten Island and I lived there for about eight years –right around the block from CSI, actually– before we moved again; this time out to New Jersey, and I’ve been living out there ever since. I’m also a bit of what you would call a ‘gym rat’. I love to eat healthy.
The Banner: It’s interesting that you live in New Jersey and commute here to a CUNY school in Staten Island. What made you choose CSI? Did it have anything to do with any ties you already had from living here for a while previously?
Chris: Well, I haven’t always attended CSI. I started my college life over at Montclair State, in New Jersey. It was a real university type of atmosphere over there but the cost was a little high for me. So, I left after one year and ended up at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey. I spent one year at Brookdale before transferring here to CSI. Yeah man, CSI makes me feel at home. Like I said, I had grown up right around the block so I was familiar with the campus, having been in and around it for so many years when I was younger. I’ve been here for three years now and I still feel the same way.
The Banner: I have a friend that used to commute from New York to New Jersey to go to Kean University. Long story short, he ended up moving out to New Jersey. Does the traveling get to you — especially when you add in the elements of tolls, gas, and traffic?
Chris: It’s actually not that bad, man. First off, I remembered a lot of the streets and routes from when I lived here, so that helped because there wasn’t too much time spent getting myself acclimated to Staten Island itself. I’d say that by the end of my first semester at CSI, I pretty much had my commute down — that includes timing, routes, and expenses. I have a Mazda 3 — it’s great on gas. So it deals with the 54 mile round trip pretty well. The bridge part isn’t really too much of a hassle. Don’t get me wrong, it gets hectic sometimes, but I’ve been able to figure out what routes and specific times help me beat traffic. It’s usually only about a 35 minute drive from my house to school. With traffic — and the majority of the time, that traffic comes from Jersey — it would take me about an hour at most. But once again, that’s all relative to my own personal commute. It sounds a lot worse than it actually is. I even get what they call a “commuter pass” in New Jersey. To Staten Island and back only ends up costing me about $8.25, round trip. I’ll tell you this much — I respect people who deal with public transportation. They have it worse than a guy like me does.
The Banner: Visualize your commute for me and take me through it; from the time you leave your house to the time you get to CSI. What are the specifics about the route (or routes) that you take?
Chris: Well, most of my days start early — around six in the morning. I’m a waiter so the majority of my work hours are in the evening. I get in the car — everything that I need to do for the day is going through my head — and I get moving. I usually listen to Slacker Radio, intellectual hip hop, or (you know) that new kind of electronic music. There are two routes that I stick to. But my main one takes me straight from route 34 to route 9; route 9 runs along the Garden State Parkway. From there I take the exit that gets me to the Outerbridge crossing. Once I get over the bridge I hop onto the Korean Veterans Parkway. The GPS likes to tell me to take 440. I never do that, because unlike what the GPS says, it’s not faster; especially now that all of that construction is going on over there. I have found that taking the local route once I get to Staten Island is much more time efficient. I go Korean Vet to Richmond Avenue, and then Richmond Avenue to Forest Hill Road. That takes me all the way to the back entrance of CSI.
The Banner: What have your encounters with law enforcement been like — if you’ve had any — and do you feel that New Jersey cops differ from New York cops?
Chris: You know what, I have come to notice that the type of officers you meet do seem to change when you cross state lines. I feel like New Jersey cops are very down to the book. They go straight to the law while New York cops add more of a human element to the rules. The officers in Staten Island — at least in my experience — seem to follow the book, but with a rewrite in human edicacy. One time I was driving down Richmond Avenue doing about 50 (miles per hour). I noticed two cops — one in my right mirror behind me, and one who had now pulled directly in front of me. We pulled up to a red light and the cop that was behind me — who clearly knew that I was going over the speed limit — now was pulling up next to me. I have to assume that the only reason I didn’t get a ticket was because there was another cop riding 50 in front of me. As the light turned green I signaled for the second cop car to go ahead in front of me. Common sense and understanding took the place of what was actually written in stone as the law in that situation. On the other hand, I was pulled over in Holmdel, New Jersey one time on the backroads of an area that I wasn’t too familiar with. The cop explained to me that the speed limit had dropped from 35 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour about a half mile back. I told him that I didn’t really know the area and that I hadn’t seen any signs, or else I would have slowed down. He wrote that off, but then cited my rosary beads — that were hanging down from my my rearview mirror — as an obstruction of view and wrote me up a ticket for that. I guess that’s the difference right there. Holmdel cops never let you go anyway (laughs).
The Banner: How about weather? Do you feel as if people come out of their element behind the wheel when storms hit?
Chris: In my opinion, it’s really a split line between New Jersey and New York when it comes to weather. People on Staten Island, I feel, are actually a bit more considerate — more aware of their surroundings. They understand that there is rain or snow on the ground so they adjust themselves properly. People in New Jersey, however, become worse. It’s either that they are completely fearful of the weather — which causes them to become a roadblock of sorts. Or they just act like they don’t notice the weather — which pretty obviously causes a problem.
The Banner: Okay, so with all of that said, what are your main goals that keep you coming to CSI week in and week out? Where would you like your degree to lead you towards in your future career? And furthermore, would you recommend CSI as a viable option to more potential students that live out of state?
Chris: I’ll start by telling you that my main goals that keep me coming to CSI –goals that are being met by the studies in my major– are the same ones that I see driving me towards what I want to do with my life. I’d like to be able to build and grow random businesses, and then sell them to somebody that really loves that particular topic — whatever it may be. Getting these businesses started and then selling them to people who are actually in love with the idea, and who can make them grow; well, that’s what I would really like to do. And as far as CSI goes, it’s the same kind of principle. I’ve been involved with multiple clubs around campus in my time here — groups that include CAB and WSIA. I hope to continue to help build these clubs up — as CSI continues to grow in its own right — so that this way this university can begin to become as appealing to other out of state people as it has to me. I mean, when I first started coming here, I remember being so happy (pause) — just happy that I could sit and do homework in the beautiful library that we have. I think CSI is a great school. I’d recommend the commute to anybody.