The Last Word

To begin with, Florida is a very large state to drive through. And there are a lot of distractions along the way. I’m a breakfast guy, and I don’t like to go to far without a good meal under my belt. And Florida has a lot of breakfast places. So many Waffle Houses, so little time.

You can easily spot an IHOP or Waffle House from almost any highway. Getting there is not so easy. Virtually every road in Florida is a divided highway. So you have to drive by the place, then U-turn (I think it’s legal, unless marked otherwise) and make your way back to it. Then, good luck finding the entrance. If you miss it, you’re going the wrong way again. Only this time, you’ll have to do two U-turns to try and get to breakfast. That’s a lot of turning on an empty, hungry stomach.

It was at some point on I-75, the infamous “Alligator Alley,” that I got off the highway in pursuit of an eating establishment. I did my U-turn, but then couldn’t find the entrance to the place (I think it was an IHOP.) So I went past it again, then made a right turn, thinking I could sneak up on it from behind. Instead, I was on an entrance ramp taking me back onto the interstate I had just left, only going in the opposite direction. Just ahead was a tollbooth. Time and my patience were both running out.

I had to get turned around, and I did not want to go through the tollbooth to do it. My mind went back across many miles and too many years, as I recalled finding myself in a similar predicament on I-95 in Connecticut. I recalled explaining my predicament to the attendant, who held me there until the coast was clear and then let me turn around and go back the way I had come at no charge.

It’s not that way in good ol’ (not too) neighborly New Hampshire. Nosir, ma’am. You get confused and turned around in these heyuh pahts and yuh kin do all the explainin’ yuh want to the toll booth attendant and yuh might as well try sendin’ the snow back and tellin’ Gawd Almighty New Hampshuh ordered it by mistake. If you got on the highway goin’ thuh wrong way, gee that’s too bad. Yuh kin pay to go thru the tollbooth and then pay again to come back thru it, headin’ the way you wanted to go in the first place. And if you’ve got any complaints, maybe you should write a letter to Dear Abby.

Well, as it turned out, this particular highway had a place where you could U-turn, right in front of the tollbooth attendant and everybody. So I turned around, then got off the highway again and finally found my way to the IHOP.

So maybe because it’s a bigger state, and they have more tourists getting disoriented, that Florida is more merciful to motorists who have lost their way. Or maybe it’s because they have a sales tax and are less dependent on lost motorists going twice through a tollbooth they hadn’t intended to go through once that the Sunshine State has less need to fleece the directionally handicapped. But we do tax people at all our eating establishments with our rather steep (8 percent) rooms and meals tax.

So maybe we could be more merciful at our tollgates if we had more restaurants at our moose crossings.

Waffle House, anyone?

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