Chariots for Hire

15 Mar

When we landed in Ft. Myers yesterday morning, I had instructions to call the car service as soon as we cleared baggage claim. A few minutes after doing so, a Lincoln pulled up and popped the trunk. And that’s when we met our driver, Richard.

Richard looked like the former drummer for a 1980s hair band. He was short and lean, with gray curls pulled back in a ponytail that stretched halfway down his back. In short, he looked like almost every other middle-aged guy in Florida: a few decades past a serious drug habit, a few hours past his last pull on a joint, happy to spend his last dollar to buy a friend a beer, with a laid back swagger letting you know he still fancied himself a lady’s man.

(And, like most Floridians, he wasn’t really from Florida. He moved here from Stephensonville, Texas, 25 years ago. Asked if he prefers Florida to Texas, he told us he did. “I went back in 2005 and realized I couldn’t do it any more. Even the gas stations in Florida are landscaped nicely compared to Texas.” That wouldn’t be my first line item comparison of two geographies, but OK.)

Looks aside, he actually seemed like a nice guy. He was pretty quiet for the first part of the drive, but after we detoured by Publix to pick up groceries and returned to the car with some boxes of liquor from “Friendly Frankies,” he warmed right up to us and became a veritable tour guide.

As we drove through Matlacha (pronounced Matt-LeShay), he told us about its history as a fishing village and informed us that artists had somehow found it and now use the old cottages as art and writing studios. Sure enough, as we entered the town, he started pointing out the sights to us. In case you’re curious, those sites included: an over-sized rocking chair, a post office next to a canal without curbs to prevent cars from driving into the water, telephone poles that artists painted in a contest, a bar that has live music five nights a week, and another that has live music on Fridays.

Enjoying his new-found role of guide, Richard continued to narrate our progress to the Pine Island Marina. Unfortunately, Pine Island must lack the charm and history of Matlacha, because the tidbits became a bit more mundane as we neared the marina:

“Look at that Subway restaurant. Usually they have to look the same, but not this one.” (He was correct. I think the franchise owners might be disgruntled to see such a break from brand standards.)

“See this post office? It is supposed to be the smallest one in America.” (I didn’t doubt it. It looked like a hotdog stand.)

And finally, as if he were a realtor, he told us, “There’s also a CVS. And, we have dentists and doctors out here too.”

You don’t say? Well, maybe – like landscaped gas stations – that’s also a notable difference if one is from Texas. I really wouldn’t know.

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One Response to “Chariots for Hire”

  1. Alan March 19, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    After telling us that he couldn’t take Texas anymore because the people were so provincial, it was fun hearing him say that (what with having their very own doctor *and* dentist in Matlacha) people have to leave the town limits so seldom.

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