Monday, February 20, 2023

Crazy Driver Season


  It was only a matter of time. A few weeks ago, hubby was going up Harbor Drive (pictured)  when a car coming from a side road ploughed (plowed) right into him, spinning his beloved old Volvo  and writing it off.  And then a few days later, he witnessed the car in front of him entering a four-way-stop crossroads (I always think these are fiendish, relying as they do on other people's good manners - it would never work in some countries I could name) and another car hitting it.  When hubby drove off, understandably shaken, the horn on one crippled vehicle was still surreally blaring.  And a couple of days later he saw a cyclist defying a red light all but get himself killed. And I once had a massive pick-up truck reverse into my little car with a sickening crunch. 

 This time of year, the end of every unscathed journey is a blessing. We stagger back into the house mopping our brows and breathing sighs of relief, "You wouldn't believe what I saw that driver do!"  Likewise with friends' tales - of drivers swerving across four lanes because they just remembered they had to make a left turn, drivers taking a chance and crossing the road in front of you with inches to spare, more often than not with a trailer in tow, impatient drivers slaloming through the palm trees in the central reservation (median), drivers shooting red lights, drivers mowing down cyclists and pedestrians. The 70mph speed limit on the motorway (Interstate) is a mere suggestion. It's either a race track or a car park (parking lot) depending on where the latest pile-up's occurred.
    To survive we live by our wits. Any car poised to enter traffic, until proven otherwise, is a mortal foe.  We were driving down a suburban road and saw such a car. "He's not going to go is he?" I said as we got closer, "No he can't possibly go". And just as we reached him, "He's going to go!" I screamed and hubby slammed on the brakes just in time. The driver, tired of waiting, had decided it was time to go, whether anyone was coming or not. 
  It's my theory that motorists around London can be aggressive and obnoxious but they mostly know  what they're doing and where they're going. Whereas here in coastal Florida there's a fatal combination of  bewildered tourists, frustrated locals and some people who, let's face it, shouldn't really be driving at all. Except, unlike London, there's not much in the way of public transport. There are visitors wobbling along, helmetless, on their holiday bikes, groups of pensioners (retirees) seeing how fast they can go in their golf carts, motorcyclists, also frequently helmetless, weaving in and out, downtown shoppers and their dogs sauntering nonchalantly in the middle of the road. Signalling left or right appears to be optional. Rules are ignored (see above again). And of course all of us are capable of making the odd stupid mistake.

Every winter season the huge influx of traffic gets worse,  with congestion - and roadwork(s) trying to deal with the congestion - just adding to the toxic mix. And as yet more lanes are added, yet more houses are built.   And yet more lives are lost. Hard to know what could be done. Oh for the quiet country lanes of Cattaraugus County, (preferably without the snow) - or for the 93 bus!

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Back to Beach Time


I've been neglecting the beach. In between lots to do, chilly weather and the vestiges of the Red Tide cough-inducing algae menace, poor Golden Beach somehow slipped through the net.  But the other day I made amends. You are so lucky, I had to remind myself, we have our own neighbourhood beach just a short stroll away. It seems somehow ungrateful not to take advantage.

So I took myself off with a beach chair and a book and sat in my favourite place, as the little ruddy turnstones picked and pecked their way around me, friendly and fearless, looking for goodies in the sand, while, out over the water, pelicans plunged like knives into butter. Far away on the horizon fishing boats chugged past. And in the middle distance, a pair of dolphins gamboled along, close enough to see the sleek oily black of their backs. Their fins still make me nervous. A friend of a friend saw one for the first time and screamed, "Shark!" Everyone laughed but she had a point. A fin is a fin, even on an innocent dolphin. And there are sharks here of course, not all of them prehistoric and benignly surrendering their teeth to the searching tourists and their rakes.

I know I should do this more often. But I realise that, over the years, I've slipped out of the excited, romantic phase that is tourist mode. The main thing about our beach is that it's there - to sit on in the sunshine and walk along in the quiet dawn and meet friends to gaze at the sunset.  A bit like living in London and not going to the theatre for ages but being constantly reassured that, should I want to go, the theatres are there. And should I want to go, our beach is there. What a luxury.