The pickup truck in front of my car on the highway had the words “Fresh Snow” painted carefully on the back window. In big white-block letters, it proudly proclaimed its message. The bumper sticker below stated “Yes officer, I know I know. License and registration.” If this was up North, I would assume it was a skier. But as I was in Florida for my family vacation, I thought to myself Man, the cartels are getting pretty brazen down here. Snow means different things regionally. Or at least I assume so.
I’ll admit, I have no idea what is going on down in Florida. I always thought Florida Man was a fun meme until I left the resorts of Orlando behind and toured the state a little bit. Nope. I would hazard a guess that the entire state is Florida Man. And Florida Man has a very peculiar way to design the cities in the state.
Directions are best given by a Russian who has never been there. Sure, you won’t’ understand a word of what they are saying but it’s very entertaining. To get to our rental house, I had to find a street called Mill Creek. This was difficult because as I found out, the street was also known as 133rd. It entirely depended on which satellite your GPS was getting directions from and which software patch is used. I don’t mean the street name was done with a slash (like normal people) like Millcreek/133rd. I mean that on one side of the road was the sign Mill Creek. The other side had the sign 133rd.
And to find that street, I had to take a left on East Manatee Road. It’s easy enough to find because to get there, you have to take a different street called East Manatee Road. The first East Manatee Road runs North/South because of course, it does.
I was in a place called Manatee County, by the way. Which seems to very proud and protective of its namesake sea cow. There was the Manatee Middle School, the Manatee Palm Reader, and the Manatee Kidney Disease. That last one was a bit confusing for my kids as we weren’t sure if that was the name of a disease or they were giving manatees kidney problems. Probably Big Pharma.
And I know every state has its fair share of bad drivers. I grew up in Dallas which is basically like a racecar track but with guns. I have driven in Chicago and experienced its philosophy of bumper cars as a highway sport. But dudes, Florida has its own thing.
You are just as likely to see a convertible corvette going 80 in a neighborhood as you are to see it going 5 mph on the highway in the left lane. This car is driven by the same silver-haired person, and I can assure everyone that their middle fingers still work, even if their eyesight doesn’t. They are both dusted though by the golf cart with knobby tires doing at least 110 on the sidewalk with a couple of kids hanging on for dear life where golf clubs used to be. And not only are illegal U-turns not illegal, they seem to be actively encouraged, especially without a blinker. Driving in Florida is like living in an action movie where you’re the NPC and you’re pretty sure you’re about to be jacked for the storyline.
I told a friend who lives in Florida about this and he asked me if any trucks had fireworks in the back of the truck. As July 4th was a month away, I thought it was a weird question, until I saw it in the bed of a pick-up that passed me less than a minute later. I guess fiery explosions are par for the course in Florida?
I don’t want to bag on Florida too much here. After all, in my own state of Missouri, there was a naked guy blazing down the highway on a 4-wheeler. The difference though here is that it’s more the exception than a Tuesday morning headed down to the beach. All I’m saying is that my kids have to talk to a therapist now every time they see a golf cart.
The father in me wants to give the entire state a hug and ask if they are ok. Maybe we can sit down afterward and work some of this out. Give Florida a nice dinner and a chance to figure out its future before sending it back into the world. Maybe I’ll point out that when you tell me to take a right on 5th street, your next sentence shouldn’t be “It comes right after 66th.”
I’m not making that up, by the way. That really happened. It’s there. Now I am no longer confused on how Florida can mess up vote counts.
But the sunshine was refreshing for those of us coming out of a cold winter. And the people in the stores, restaurants, or just walking by were absolutely wonderful. Cheerful and with big smiles, they welcomed my awkwardness into their clan. And I discovered that they move on Florida time, which is somewhere between a mosey and just stopping. And that’s the speed I wanted for my vacation.
Although next time I think I’ll just get an Uber to drive me around for a while.
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