I’m not sure if I’m going to make it through the next year, here in Florida. It’s the people…I’m not sure if they’ve always been like this and I just haven’t seen it, or if they’re actually getting worse. There’s no polite way to say it…
…They’re goddamn stupid, and violently, aggressively defensive about their right to BE stupid.
I’ve had several encounters in the past two weeks that leave me wondering just how many decent people are actually here in Florida, because I sure ain’t seein’ any.
Case #1: Today on my way home from work, I was in downtown Tampa, as usual. The road is three lanes wide and one-way, past the tall buildings. My light turned green, and the light a block up was solidly green for me and the half-dozen cars with me at the light. We all went, and then I saw the dozen or so people crossing the road. Again, thoroughly against traffic. And they weren’t hurrying.
I hit the brakes, and sounded a surprised “doot-doot” on the horn.
Now, everyone knows that “HONK HONK” is horn for “move yer fuckin’ ass.” Everyone knows that “HOONNNNNKKKK” is horn for “this is my road, motherfucker, now get the fuck out of it before I fucking run your stupid ass down, you fucking asshole!”
But “doot-doot” is the horn expression for “Holy shit! Look out, I’m gonna hit you!”
And the last guy crossing flipped me the bird, and gave me the expression that universally says, in less than one second, “Fuck you, buddy. Yer not gonna run me over, and we both know it, so that means I own yer ass, and I can do whatever the fuck I want…and I want to cross right in front of you and make you hit your fucking brakes. Ha ha, motherfucker.”
It was so outrageously rude, inconsiderate and stupid, I couldn’t even be angry…just incredulous.
Case #2: A week ago, we were on our way home from the movies – me, my wife, our four kids – in our minivan, on a four-lane road. We stopped at a red light, and just past the light, the left lane merged into the right lane. We were in the right lane.
The light turned green, and we went. As the left lane prepared to disappear, a minivan came up from behind, got next to us, and proceeded to merge toward the side of us. I laid on the horn, and even though their window was open, they continued into our lane – I had to swerve off the road and hit the brakes, and she continued on in front of us. My wife started yelling:
“She was on her goddamn phone! She had her phone in her goddamn lap and she never looked up!! That BITCH!! She never even knew we were there!!”
So several miles down the road we came to another red light. I pulled up next to her and I saw that she was a little blonde girl, no older than 22 or so. I rolled down the window and yelled at her, actually yelled at her:
“YOU KNOW YOU RAN US OFF THE ROAD BECAUSE YOU WER—“
“You know you were in a merge lane,” she cut me off to say, and had the smug, superior voice that only a little blonde girl can muster up. I was flabbergasted. Not only was she wrong, and wrong because she had had her head stuck in her phone instead of the road…
…it meant she’d run us off the road on purpose, not out of negligence. She’d known we were there, and done it anyway.
“NO WE WEREN’T, YOU WERE!!” It was all I could muster up.
“Nope.” And she smiled a little smug smile and drove off, because the light was green, leaving me fuming and sputtering.
Case #3 is the worst, and another week farther back. My wife and I were walking the dog in our subdivision one night. We had to cross the road at a stop sign, but there were a couple of cars waiting at it, as a couple more cars drove by. The first car at the stop sign pulled up, but the next car back, a Mercedes that was probably nice 15 years ago, didn’t…because the driver was looking down at his phone. We could see in the car, and see the phone’s glow, lighting up his face as he looked sown. We didn’t dare step out, because he was completely not looking and would have run us down.
At this point, I admit that I shouldn’t have done anything. But it had been a bad day, and I’d had a couple of beers, and I was in a bad mood.
I yelled “STOP TEXTING” at the top of my lungs. It was stupid, but I did it. The window slid down.
“You say sumthin’?”
“I said you shouldn’t text and drive because it’s dangerous,” I said. The driver’s first response was to just lie.
“I wuzn’t.” Now, few things piss me off faster than being lied to, and this was a baldfaced lie.
“I could see your phone,” I said, too angry to care.
“Yeah, well I’m at a stop sign. You telling me I can’t at a stop sign?’ Never mind that it’s illegal to text and drive in Florida, unless stopped at a stop light, where it is impossible to move forward until the light turns green. Not a stop sign, where you have to watch for traffic and use your judgment to go or not. And he drove off…
…but only for a block. He then turned around and drove back. My wife started to freak out.
“Oh my God, he’s coming back.” He pulled to the curb and the window slid down.
“You got sumthin’ to say about textin’ at a stop sign!?”
My brain ran through fifty different scenarios during the span of that sentence. None of them ended well, whether it was with police and a court case, and all our time and money for the next few months, or whether it was getting beat up by a douche spoiling for a fight, or whether it was with me in a pool of my own blood on the sidewalk, because I had no idea how many guns the guy might have inside his car – it is Florida, after all, and the Stand Your Ground Law here is something to fear. I decided I was done with the guy.
“You have a nice night now,” I said and started to walk.
“Yeah, that’s wut I thought!” came out the window as he drove off. For any female readers, that’s guy-speak for “you’re a pussy.” And he turned around again and drove past us again and disappeared off in the direction he’d originally started to go. I will bet that if the finger I was itching to wave at him had come out, there’d have been brake lights and either a fistfight or a roadside murder.
All because he was texting and driving, and willing to defend to the end his right to do it.
And these are just the big things. All the time, I see people taking a bicycle ride during rush hour, holding up traffic. People walking on the road instead of the sidewalk, before dawn, wearing black. People letting doors drop on the people behind them. Little stupid and rude things, every day, and every one of these things I see grinds on me.
Why? I have a strong sense of honor, and ethics, and justice, and courtesy. When i see people doing things that are stupid, or wrong, or rude…I have a strong urge to call them out, to correct them, to stop the behavior. But instead of being shamed, or wanting to be better, people here are violently defensive about their right to be stupid, and do things that endanger those around them.
We’ve lived here for four years, and we’ve never had this many run-ins of this nature, with people of this nature. I have no idea if people here are getting meaner and dumber, or what. I don’t ever seem to have any good interactions with people when I’m out and about, though. It’s scaring me, though. I have to make it through at least one more year here, and it seems to be getting harder.