Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yes, Lost Tourist, Please Cut Me Off

As I was driving down I-4 the other day, I was reminded of the entirely new set of driving rules I had to learn in Florida. Being from Chicago, I was a mix of assertive and polite. You won't survive on the Dan Ryan expressway if you're a wimp, but you have to offset that with occasionally letting some poor slob in when he's desperate to change lanes or waiting to pull out of a driveway. I also learned to slow down a bit and allow people to merge onto expressways. Then I move to Celebration and the rules were suddenly turned upside down.

In Florida, it's almost never a good idea to let someone get in front of you when they make a sudden decision, turn on their blinker (or not), and try to force their way over. That's because they're usually not just someone who was sleeping at the switch and suddenly realizes they're in the wrong lane. Instead, they're most likely a totally lost tourist, and if you let them in, you'll be going 5 m.p.h. with occasional abrupt stops as they search desperately for whatever it is they've suddenly decided is on your side of the road. I'm more likely to let a local-looking vehicle in; when it's a Chrysler convertible with "Sunshine State" plates (vs. a county), they're not going to wedge their way in front of me without a crowbar.

I've always wondered what the big deal about getting over right now is anyway. The incident that brought this all to mind happened on I-4 approaching the Sand Lake Road exit. There was still almost two miles to go before the exit, yet some dude decided he had to get over right now and it had to be in front of me. Uh, no. A lack of planning/knowledge/whatever on your part doesn't constitute a crisis on mine. He hovered parallel to me with his blinker on, and I studiously maintained just enough space to show him that it wasn't going to happen. Why bother me? Choose some other car to cut off. Get in front of some other tourist and you can be lost together.

Eventually he gave up with a mile still to go. He of course had to honk his horn in irritation before dropping back and moving over; there was plenty of space a couple cars behind me, but people don't seem happy unless they're actually getting in front of someone. As a cognitive therapist, the horn thing always cracks me up. I suppose the honker sees it as an "up yours" sort of gesture, but it makes me laugh because it shows me that they're giving me power over them...the power to really piss them off. Why would they want to give that to a total stranger? Just drop back, merge in elsewhere, and don't waste time stewing about it. Oh well, the "stewers" are more entertaining.

I do try to be polite on the expressway, but sadly it just doesn't work in Florida most of the time. When I'm in the right lane and I see people merging, I slow down to let them in. The majority of the time they see this and slow down too. I slow down more...so do they. They just don't get the concept of "I'm slowing to let you in. I swear it's not a trick." Eventually I just give up and floor it, leaving them in my dust.

Politeness aside, I have utterly no pity for the people who get on a clearly marked tollway, then exit at an unmanned booth and just sit there...and sit there...and sit there...as though it's going to either disappear or coins are going to start falling from the sky like manna from Heaven. This is particularly bad on Osceola Parkway, where I've been in three car backups because some tourist is panicking. Suck it up, dude, and deal with the ticket 'cause you made a stupid choice and have no other option.

I've actually given coins to tourists at the Celebration Avenue toll plaza before I had my SunPass (which has its own lane at that exit, thank goodness). One desperate U.K. family even ran back to my car and offered me some type of British coins in exchange for quarters, but I just thrust some money at them and refused their offering...I'm not too likely to be on a British toll road in the near future.

It is indeed a different world when you're driving in the Tourist Mecca of the U.S. If you're ever looking lost on I-4 or 192 and see Kitt (my Saturn Vue) in the next lane, don't look for any sympathy if you feel the sudden need to be where I am. I've got places to go, and I prefer to get to them at a pace a little faster than 5 m.p.h.


Running Jen said...

I agree with everything you said! I lived in Celebration for a few years, and still visit frequently (my mom lives there) so I see it all the time. I'm up near UCF now, and still deal with stuff like that on a daily basis. Everything you wrote, is pretty much part of the big pet peeves I have about driving in this state.

Oh, and I drive a Saturn Vue too.

Bob@thenest said...

International Drive, south of outlet mall area, three lanes each direction. Car ahead in right lane (travel lane), brake lights on, I'm getting closer, realize car is stopped! I move to middle lane and as I pass I note the driver has a large map spread out and he's reading it. Stopped in 45mph travel lane to read a map.

Do they REALLY do that at home? Have seen this three times now in various locations.

Dean said...

It's difficult to keep a calm head when all around you people are driving without THINKING! I'm from the UK and more and more of our small island is getting used up with roads, and said roads are busier. BTW, we have ONE main toll road, the M6 Toll so the change you were offered would not be useful for tolls here! My pet peeve is drivers who don't signal when turning on our roundabouts here. We-re coming over to Kissimmee for our 5th trip in 6 years so driving in Orlando is something we're used to and no maps out whilst in a driving lane on the highway for us!!! LOL. Keep up the blogs, I love them, reminds me of good times in Florida. Dean

Christina Ferretti said...

Thank you for all the information you provide on the experience of living in Celebration!! I have been reading up on your posts and appreciate your blog. My husband and I are from NJ and we are looking into moving to Celebration this coming July. I am an in-home therapist for families in crisis and he is a high school teacher as well as a part time cast member. We are hoping to find work in the area and I hope we have a successful experience, as it seems you have!

WayneF said...

I am guilty as charged!
I am one of the tourists you speak of. And yes! we do all the things we do on purpose. you may think we are lost or daydreaming, but we have taken up the hobby of driving the local folks crazy with our antic's, or so it seems. I have visited celebration 6 times in the past 4 months and found myself doing exactly what you describe. All the distractions cause us to lose reason and drive in screwy ways. I'd like to say I'm sorry for all the folks I cut off and maybe some who found themselves in a bush or someone else's driveway for safety. One thing I can say that came easy and I learned from examples of others, is driving slowly through Celebration, and when I mean slowly...I mean the speed limit. It is noticeable and strange to us folks from other places to have people greet you with a smile and a wave as if they knew you! it is a funny wave(that poor guy with only one finger) just kidding. It is noticeably refreshing to walk around and enjoy the family and community pride that is easy to sense. It makes us outsiders consider relocating and joining what appears to be a slower more relaxing community. People I know who reside there are the best salespersons celebration can have and there is not a week that goes by without the question of, So when are you going to go house shopping? Well, the answer is always soon. I am working on my due diligence and the funny part is my wife has never been there with me and I have become one of your "Celebration Fans" Best Regards to all!