Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Land of the Lost

To all those who emailed me, the blog took a hiatus while I was preparing for my transatlantic cruise and then sailing in the Med and back across the Pond for two weeks. I'm back now, immersing myself in Celebration life and getting caught up with my work. You can find a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of my cruise, including real-life monkey knife fighting, at http://disneycruise.blogspot.com/

In the meantime, if you're a child of the 70s, I suspect that you remember Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition...that took them to the Land of the Lost. In its Sid and Marty Krofft incarnation, the land was a creepy compilation of bad SFX dinosaurs, creepy humanoid/reptilian Sleestaks, and caveboy Chaka (who apparently pitches GEICO now).

Here in Florida, we have our own Land of the Lost. But instead of a tiny raft plummeting 1000 feet, you can easily access it on any road within 30 miles of Disney World. Instead of menacing prehistoric creatures, the poor souls caught in this harsh and forbidding land must battle giant roadside slingshots and other siren-calling roadside attractions, ambiguous directions, confusing intersections, and endless snaking lines of traffic. Unlike Marshall and his family, they are not searching for a way to get home, but rather to find the Mythic Land of the Giant Mouse.

In the original Land of the Lost, outsiders were quickly recognized by Chaka and the rest of the Pakuni by the fact that they wore clothing, spoke comprehensibly, and had considerably less body hair. In our present day version, the physical differences are not so apparent, but natives can still spot the noobs by some very easily recognizable traits:

-The make of their car. Impalas, minivans, and Dodge convertibles with Sunshine State plates (vs. those that list a county) are neon beacons that holler "Lost soul here!", and the effect is intensified by the passengers and/or driver busily reading a map spread out over the dashboard.

-Their erractic movements. On their quest for the Mouse, they frequently stop dead, backtrack, bolt sideways and even backwards, regardless of the other vehicles around them. Long ago I stopped marveling at the sight of cars driving in reverse full-tilt down I-4 exit ramps. No one ever really got hurt in Saturday morning cartoons, and apparently vacationers believe that they have the same sort of immunity, regardless of the wisdom of their driving decisions.

Any native who frequents I-4 and 192 quickly develops a special sense that allows them to detect lost souls and to even predict some of their behavior. Some of the signs are obvious. For example, lost people typically drive at least 10 miles below the expressway speed limit, usually in the middle lane so that they can easily swerve in either direction; tourists are notorious for refusing to commit to a solid right or left land.

But some of the signs are much more subtle. For example, there is a certain "pause" that a tourist vehicle makes before launching an erratic sideways move; it's invisible to the naked eye, but a true Floridian feels it rather than sees it and knows they have mere seconds to get out of the way.

At least you have plenty of room to maneuver around the Marshall, Will, and Hollys of the greater Orlando/Kissimmee area when you're out on a major road. We get our share of them here in Celebration, too, and our narrow roads are hard enough to maneuver even in the best of circumstances, let alone when you have a hopelessly lost soul in front of you.

I have learned a few survival tricks for dealing with hopelessly lost drivers in-town. First and foremost, NEVER signal a turn intention. This contradicts every instinct in my body, as I am one of the few Floridians who still knows how to use my turn signals. But I've learned that if the person in front of you is lost and you both come to a stop sign at a major intersection, the odds are good that if you put on your blinker they will suddenly flick on theirs, too, and turn the same way. Since they are in front, you now have to suffer with their 10 mph pace for an even longer spell of time.

At first, I thought I was imagining things. Finally I tried an experiment: whenever I had a lost person in front of me on East Lawn (the King Street of Lost Souls and Looky-Loos), I'd wait until we got to the stop sign at the dead end. If they didn't put on their signal, I would put on my right turn signal (even though I turn left there). Sure enough, theirs would flip on, and mercifully they could go the other way.

Just to make sure that my theory was correct and that it wasn't coincidence or the natural tendency of Americas to go right, I flipped on my left signal a few times when the person in front of me was obviously lost and clueless. Sure enough, they would turn left too. However, if I didn't put on my signal at all, the right-bias would come out and they would turn that way, usually after sitting at the stop sign for several minutes waiting for my blinker lights to send them the special signal.

All of this is magnified during the heart of the tourist season. Thankfully that's all over for a few months now; it's the low season until late October, when the holidays will draw droves and droves of adventure seekers to the Land of the Lost once again. But that's okay, I don't fear the outsiders. Between my heightened Floridian senses and my turn signal trick, I can survive any influx that earthquakes and rapids (or airplanes and vans) can bring.

Visit my Celebration, FL website: http://www.celebrationinfo.com/

Click below to visit my Life Coaching office at Kasamba:

Ask an Expert - Visit my Virtual Office at Kasamba

No comments: