Dear Southwest Florida, You Terrify Me
Attention Southwest Florida,
It’s time to reduce the meds.
I submit as evidence the accident I witnessed and was nearly part of. My only fault: the decision to spend ten days in Southwest Florida with my parents. One of your lovely mud-covered Buicks travelling at speed swerved in and out of the lanes near me before finally crossing all three of them and slamming into a concrete bus bench.
First, have you not heard of sun shades? They’re nice – a thing you put up for people so they won’t keel over with sunstroke while they wait for the bus.
Second, thank goodness you don’t know about sun shades, or someone might have actually been sitting on that bench.
No one was hurt. The driver was fine, or at least I assume he was fine. He got out of the car, slammed the door, and stomped around. From a distance, I called emergency services, which is what we do in safe, quiet Washington D.C. when someone in full-throttle meds goes nuts.
In six hours of driving on your roads, Southwest Florida, I was nearly in six accidents. I doubt this was all because I drove a rented Mitsubishi Crap. Yes, I was offered a better car by a very nice gentleman, who kindly and strongly suggested I purchase an upgrade.
“This isn’t my first time at the heat!” I would have yelled if he hadn’t been older than my dad. Quietly, the voice inside my head roared, “I won’t be upsold by a rental car company!”
The nice old upseller seemed to feel bad for me. Insisting on The Crap, I was soon sweltering my way through the parking garage toward him.
The Crap is a male car. Obviously.
The car of my sub-compact economy dreams offered me false hope with a gangsta style push-to-start button. Our affair was short-lived. In his guttural, hacking, engine-idle voice, The Crap said, “I am the Mitsubishi Crap, Cheapest of My Kind. You, me, and my dubious engineering are going on an adventure. Hear me creak!”
Little known fact: the Mitsubishi Crap’s lifespan is measured in dog years: every mile driven in a Crap is like 7 miles driven in the upgraded rental car I wouldn’t purchase for ten more dollars per day. The Crap had 70,000 dog-year miles on it with nary a required maintenance visit.
In the creaking Crap, I set out. Six near-accidents later, I zeroed in on the problem: a local inability to recognize the color white. There could be no other explanation, but I was sure of the condition. Non-Craps didn’t just hug the white line on their side. They came over to The Crap’s rattle and hum side of the road. Not just over but far over. Repeatedly. At five miles per hour, twenty-five miles per hour, sixty-five miles per hour. Whatever. I honked. I swore. I tried not to freak out under the relentless assault. I endeavored not to overtax The Crap, who kept whispering, “One of my wheels is going to fall off at any moment.”
In numerous split seconds that seemed to last for hours, I contemplated repeatedly why Southwest Florida residents might not recognize the color white. Could it be the lack of sun shades caused widespread opthalmic damage. Or had the urge to watch The Golden Girls driven out basic brain competencies like the recognition of color?
Sometimes, in Washington D.C., a driver might think she’s also temporarily lost the ability to see the road’s white lines. In fact, nothing is wrong with her vision. The lines just haven’t been painted yet. The temporary lack of lines is obviously a crime in its non-codified way. But civil society doesn’t break down as a result. Washingtonians rally. We do the maths. We pray to our varied or nonexistent gods. And across a thousand feet of gleaming, newly-laid blacktop, we maintain the right distance between our vehicles. In Washington D.C., belief that the white lines will someday come stays the hand of insanity.
So here we are at the root of it. Southwest Florida residents aren’t insane just because of the medication dosages. The real problem is a lack of hope.
In the face of this tragedy, I offer something back to the crazy state that, despite its flaws, let me go to mid-day movies for $3.99.
Southwest Florida, I offer you hope. From a distance. A safe distance. A distance so great and forbidding and uncrossable by your drivers that an impenetrable Beltway stands between us. My hope comes in many colors, the ones you can find on sun shades. Cover your roads with them. And your porches. And your parking lots. And your bus benches. Let sun shades move over your lands like a puppy swarm to the face. Only then will the insanity recede and the colors return.