After spending a week in sweltering Southwest Florida, I concluded it’s a perfect place to see if the future might be now.
Nightly local news would be a superb jumping off point for robots to make their TV debuts.
The anchorman, with a gallon-sized helping of self-importance: “Let’s go to Hal at the alligator pond. What’s should we expect today?”
“It will be ungodly hot with a massive dose of humidity. Picture perspiring like you’ve run a mile through the jungle, minus dodging poison darts, tsetse flies and Lumumba men with a cauldron of boiling water.”
That was the forecast for the entire week. Oh yeah, throw in the daily lightning that would make Thor beam with pride and flooding that would frighten Noah.
Hal the robot was on a video loop all week.
After vowing to let the denizens of Ft. Myers have all the 3 p.m. dinner specials their hearts desired because I wouldn’t be back, it was some type of divine intervention that got me back there.
So many baseball tournaments when Greg was playing brought back memories of breaking a sweat while taking a shower. His playing days over, he landed a gig coaching for the Team Elite organization.
No way I was going to permit the 19-year-old to make the nine-hour drive alone, so I cashed in a Delta companion ticket and we headed south.
Thinking my baseball days were concluded brought to mind Michael Corleone in Godfather Part III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” He then goes into a diabetic coma and darned near takes a dirt nap.
I wanted no life imitating art on this trip.
It was a week consisting of watching some baseball and trying not to get too lightheaded before getting to the rental car turned oven while baking in the sunshine.
I shuffled to the car in a gait that would have made a Florida seasoned citizen proud.
No one seems to be in much of a hurry, but driving in SoFL can be more challenging than finding a Forsyth County road that’s not under construction.
There were several close calls during my stay, mostly caused by drivers whose eye level was below the dash board.
Some ground rules while driving in Florida:
1) Stop signs are meaningless.
2) Turn signals are optional
3) Going at least 20 mph under the speed limit is too fast.
I met a 76-year-old woman who still works, taking care of diners at a Panera Bread shop. I asked her why she still worked?
Her answer: “If I stayed home, all I would do is eat all day. I’d be as big as a house.”
Cute story but it’s a sure thing that the Panera bill of fare is nothing close to an Atkins diet for weight control.
I snooped in on conversations that dealt with the humidity, the rain and where the best deals on a 3 p.m. dinner special.
But for all the niceness, people down here can turn on you.
Driving around, freeing myself from folks gearing up for the July 4th holiday, I went searching for some swampiness. And I found it.
There were “Panther Crossing” signs placed at regular intervals on this road less traveled. I’ve never seen a panther, although I’ve vowed to watch the “Black Panther” movie on Netflix very soon.
No big cats appeared and disappointed this Georgia visitor. Other drivers were not quite as enamored with my panther pursuit.
My quest to see wildlife wasn’t a total shutout. Florida has its share of birds indigenous to its location, roughly a stone’s throw from the equator.
Some seniors who have taken advantage of no income tax and playing the state lottery (not for money but for upping the odds of catching a jungle disease). They’re also adept at sharing Florida wildlife.
On my drive to nowhere there were plenty of birds. No herons. These were of the middle-finger genus that we’ve all seen.
As I searched in vain for Bagheera, a young man in his 80s, slowed down and hollered: “Hey sonny. What the hell is wrong with you? In order to see a panther, you gotta go in those woods. But watch out for snakes.”
He wheezed a laugh at his own humor and proved he was a bird lover by flipping me one.
At least he acknowledged my comparative youth. He called me “Sonny.”
Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. He says this time for sure. No more mid-summer Florida vacations. If the snakes don’t kill him, the chafing will. Pass the box of corn starch. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Facebook.