Contemptuous Joy

Lead,follow or get the burrito out of the way.


     I have lived all over most of the world and driven across the rest of it, but have never found any of it to be quite like the South Florida of it. The drivers here seem to relish the idea of being perpetually in the way and take some sick, perverse pleasure in causing problems.

     I have been researching the Olympics and can find nothing on horn blowing as an event, but there most certainly must be one and the people here will surely claim all three available medals, since they practice constantly. One may get a toot for trying to get into a parking space and another for trying to get out of one. If stuck in traffic, one can count on a blast which unhinges every nerve in the body and continues until he has become capable of acts of violence he may never have considered before.

     Universally, red lights mean stop, green lights mean go and yellow lights mean go very fast. Here, red lights mean, start the count down now. At least another ten cars are allowed to pass after the light turns. Yellow lights are simply a fifteen second free for all where anything goes. Green lights mean, this would be a perfect opportunity to eat the burrito you just bought, apply some lipstick or to drop a quick text to a friend.

     It is not uncommon to get behind a car parked in the middle of the street blocking traffic, with a line stretched to the horizon behind it. Once a person’s car has spent thirty minutes negotiating three blocks and drinking gas that costs almost as much as a drink on South Beach and requiring insurance that costs more than eating a meal on Ocean Drive, every day for a month, he arrives at the cause of the problem. There is no accident, no Secret Service protecting the President, but a car, a driver, a cell phone, bright red lipstick and a partial burrito.

     On the other hand if your car burps during this process and causes you to hesitate in the street, only briefly, you are about to meet the nice police officer. He may ask you why you are causing such a rigamaro in the middle of his street as the car ahead eases away waving the partial burrito at you in the mirror and wearing a look of contemptuous joy. If you try to explain that you have no cell phone, burrito or lipstick of any shade, he may decide you are smarting off, and in a foreign language, no less. If you persist, you may eventually assault his fist and baton with your face and get the opportunity to meet his friends.

     Then you will undoubtedly get the chance to meet, all the best society has to offer, as you spend the night in the county jail, I mean it serves you right for thinking you deserved to go home after working all day. I’ve never spent the night in jail, well at least not in America, but I’ve heard it’s much like spending a night in an animal shelter with the possible exception that in America there are still rules concerning the ethical treatment of animals.

     The next day you will get to meet other government employees such as bailiffs, court reporters and a judge. You will be relieved of much of your hard earned cash and reprimanded for assaulting poor officer what’s his face. The judge will sigh and say, “Poor officer what’s his face, this is the three hundredth time he’s been assaulted this month, you should be ashamed of yourself.” The look of shock on your face will result in your being threatened with contempt of court and you will be lectured on entering the exalted court room of Judge Judy Diaz, in such a despicable condition.

     When you arrive home, you will arrive twenty six hours late and have missed a day’s work and spent a month’s pay to spend one night with all the delightful people who work for or stay regularly with the county. You may even have a new best friend, a probation officer who will teach you, through your checkbook, how to keep your dirty little face off of the fist of officer what’s his face. No one will be totally sure what happened to your car, but eventually some part of it will surface, under an assumed name, in South America. Or if you’re lucky it will have been kidnapped by a tow company who will hold it for ransom until you get a second mortgage on your home to save it.

     Mostly what one notices in South Florida, is that the people here are in a big hurry, to get absolutely nowhere when you are in front of them, but alternately in no hurry, to get absolutely anywhere when they are in front of you.


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