Leaving Captiva: Part Two – Should you really be driving?

24 Mar

Happy trails, Captiva. Thanks for the solitude - we needed it to prepare for Carol.

When we landed on the dock at Pine Island Marina Sunday morning, we looked around wondering if Richard would be shuttling us to the airport. Alas, instead of a Lincoln Town Car, there was a white van driven by an older woman named Carol waiting to take us and another family to Fort Myers.

(The other family consisted of a woman in her mid-forties and her two middle school-aged sons, who had struck us as spoiled earlier in the week when we’d encountered them at the pool bar as they ordered one of everything. We weren’t looking forward to sharing a van with them, but… Econolines make strange bed fellows.)

Settled in the van, we started our 75 minute drive to the airport. Except Carol drove consistently 5 mph under the limit, so after some quick math, let’s make that an 85 minute drive. We quickly learned that Carol liked to talk. And talk. And talk.

To spare you the details, I’ll list some of the ground she covered and highlight the more interesting tidbits she shared:

  • She has been to Costa Rica 11 times.
  • She’s taking her entire family – kids and grandkids – there this summer for 14 days.
  • She got 10 of her teeth capped in Costa Rica for $7,000.
  • That’s AFTER her dentist in the US almost killed her by administering 16 shots of Novocaine, which caused a brain hemorrhage.
  • She had to have brain surgery. Afterward, she had to relearn how to walk.
  • She can no longer rollerskate, which is horribly disappointing on many levels.
  • She still can’t do some things because she can’t really remember anything for more than 9 seconds.

TIME OUT: Really? Do you think maybe you should pull this bus over and let someone else drive who stands a chance of remembering what the road signs say and where they are going??? PLEASE?

  • She tried to sue the dentist. But the lawyer told her that her story and her husband’s story didn’t jive. (Shocking.)
  • As it turned out, the dental work she had done didn’t even last – all 10 caps came off one year later, if you can believe that.
  • Her husband – who has perfect teeth but a lot of plaque that gets worse as he gets older – also got work done in Costa Rica. His cost $9,000 compared to the $80,000 it would’ve cost in the US. I wonder how expensive IMperfect teeth would have been?
  • She just got her college degree last year.
  • She is a fabric artist and Chico’s bought 12 of her designs and will use four of them. Three years from now.

At this point she started reaching around blindly on the floor beside her seat while keeping her eyes locked on the road through the steering wheel. She eventually fished out some photos of her “art” and passed them back for us to coo over. I’ve never bought anything from Chico’s, and now I know why.

  • Her house was hit by Hurricane Charley and they had to stay with her son for 8 months.
  • They would’ve lived with him longer, but he kicked them out. (Perhaps for talking too much?)
  • She is originally from Wisconsin but has lived in Florida for 35 years now. It’s an interesting story.

She let that statement hang there for a minute, undoubtedly waiting for someone to encourage her by asking, “Really? How did you end up here.” We all exchanged glances and kept our mouths shut, hoping to be rewarded for our awkwardness by prolonged silence. After a few beats, like a wind-up toy that will keep walking into a wall until it loses steam, she continued, “Boy, it sure was an interesting story, let me tell you…” And she did.

  • She hated Florida but they went on vacation there because her husband had friends to visit.
  • She likes to buy things, so while they were there, she went out and looked at houses.
  • Next thing you know, she’s bought seven houses, a boat and a shrimping business.
  • And that’s ON TOP of the 59 rental units they have back north.
  • Her youngest son would’ve dropped out of high school if they stayed in Wisconsin, because all it takes is a principal and a couple teachers to ruin a kid’s life. He actually graduated in Florida.

At this point, she was on a roll so she didn’t hear the other adult passenger saying, “Ma’am? Ma’am?” When there was finally a lull in her monologue, the woman seated next to Alan (who has been turned, facing her sons in the seats behind us) said – with urgency, “Ma’am? How far to the airport? I have a sick one back here!”

Carol replied, “Oh, about 10 minutes,” and continued driving.

“Can you make it?” the woman asked her son. Behind us, he coughed and started making gagging noises. “NO!” he blurted in a panic.

“Ma’am, can we pull over?” she asked Carol.

Carol continued driving as if she hadn’t heard her, approaching a stoplight at full tilt, seemingly oblivious to the drama in the backseat. Without warning, Carol abruptly cut  between two of the orange pylons lining the shoulder of the road and hit the brakes. The mom flung open the door and her kid bolted past her. He proceeded to pace around bent over right outside the door retching. His younger brother in the backseat was rolling with laughter.

When we resumed the drive, the mom said to her sick son, “You know, it sometimes helps to sit near the front so you can see out. But I get carsick so you can’t have my seat.” That’s the spirit! I’m not sure if she wanted Alan or me to offer our seat, but since we were 10 minutes from the airport, we hung tough hoping to be as close to the exit as possible so we could leave the madness behind at the first opportunity.

Twenty minutes later, in line for security, Alan and I looked at each other. “You know what my favorite part was?” I asked.

Without missing a beat, Alan said, “Yep. The part where Carol – after spending 20 minutes telling us about Costa Rica and the dental work she’d had done there – mentioned that she’d given some people a ride to the airport and THEY had been to Costa Rica. And finished that story by saying, ‘I have no idea how it even came up in conversation.'”

Precisely. Because with Carol, the question is actually how does a topic NOT get covered? I suppose it’s possible that she just doesn’t remember how she drove the conversation there. Which is fine, as long as she remembers where she parked the bus.

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