Every once in awhile, Karma smiles down upon you and grants you the opportunity of a lifetime. In my case, her gift was two tickets for a taping of The Daily Show in Tampa, Florida during the Republican National Convention. Now, some of you may be snickering or rolling your eyes because you’re complete and utter morons I think watching Jon Stewart doing his gig in person can only be surpassed by an event that involves me sipping Moët from the Holy Grail while David Sedaris reads aloud to me and Johnny Depp massages my feet. Sure, I realize his show shoots five days a week for most of the year up in Hell’s Kitchen, so you’re probably thinking that filming The Daily Show isn’t exactly rare like, say, a sober Amanda Bynes or a pale Donatella Versace.
But you would be wrong.
Shooting Comedy Central’s top–rated show in Tampa is extraordinarily unusual. And after Stewart and his team openly lambasted the city in which I reside with embarrassingly accurate observations about the heat and humidity (describing Tampa as the ideal environment for “a struggling strand of streptococcus”), the casual attire of the indigenous population (“the city where flip flops are considered evening wear”), and our fondness of clothing-optional gentlemen’s clubs (“Jon, I’m here in Tampa’s famous strip club district or as they call it here – Tampa.”), it’s unlikely that the program will ever be filmed in the Peninsula of Death again – unless a palmetto bug decides to run for President in 2016.
As a full-time resident of the Sunshine State, I am heavily-medicated due to tolerate your presence for four to five months out of each and every year. During your visits to my hometown, I strive to be patient and even welcoming. After all, you bring with you a collection of used, wadded up tissues (can’t ever have enough of those), the endless fragrance of Bengay and cold, hard cash. Tourism drives our local economy and, because of your winter forays to our tropical oasis, there are theaters that can afford to stay open year round, some of the best medical care doctors can overcharge for, and a terrific selection of colorful canes and walkers in every pharmacy, hair salon, liquor store, veterinarian’s office, McDonald’s, strip club – hell, they’re everywhere. However, we need to set a few ground rules. If you would follow these orders written in the blood of octogenarian roadkill suggestions, not only would it be greatly appreciated, but it will increase the likelihood that I won’t run you over with my Camry as you take forty-seven minutes to cross the fucking street. Thanks!
1) Your car may not occupy more than one lane at a time unless you are in the process of changing lanes – and then, only for a second. Florida roads are not like the bank, where you can stand between two teller lines and refuse to commit to either one, preferring to hover in the middle until it is apparent that one line is moving much faster than the other. Here, you must select a lane and, preferably, stick with it until you reach your destination. If you refuse to choose a lane, I will pick one for you. Beware, if I have to select one on your behalf, you may experience a painful sensation in your neck, commonly referred to as whiplash. Opening your car door when you choose to exit your vehicle may also be extremely difficult or impossible.
2) When determining the speed at which to operate your motor vehicle, consider the speed limit an order, not a recommendation. When you drive twenty miles below the speed limit, I have the urge to ride your bumper like it’s George Clooney’s naked body – and not in a good way. Being stuck in traffic behind one of you old codgers is worse than watching Cowboys and Aliens – on an endless loop. I imagine that the road to Hell is packed with sinners driving uncomfortable Ford Fiestas – all of which have no air-conditioning and a radio that blares nothing but Judy Collins singing “Send In The Clowns”- and honking their horns at the guy in the lead: one old fart crawling along at 2.7 m.p.h., waving his fist out the window of his 1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue, hollering, “Keep your shirt on. Why are youngsters always in such a rush?”
3) No one uses checks at the grocery store in Florida. If I see you pull out your checkbook, expect to have a zucchini inserted into an orifice that only your proctologist and freaky sex partner from half a century ago have ever seen up close.
4) Your Depends cannot be flushed down the toilet in public places. Likewise, please don’t ball them up and leave them in the corner of the bathroom stall, in a fitting room or under your seat at the movie theater. And despite the fact that they are made of plastic and paper, they aren’t recyclable, so pulling your used ones apart and depositing each half in the blue and red plastic recycling bins is punishable by life in prison without possibility of parole or lozenges discouraged.
5) Much like with a dangerous amusement park ride, there is a height requirement for driving in the State of Florida. If you can’t see over the wheel, take the bus. The fact that your blue hair can be viewed above the wheel by other drivers is insufficient. I must be able to see your eyeballs. More importantly, you must be able to see me, my bumper, your rear view mirror, me, your side mirror, your blind spot, me, traffic signs, pedestrians, me, traffic lights and the occasional indecisive squirrel. And me.
6) As you age, some things get better. Women stop menstruating and don’t need to shave anything but their faces. Men lose their hair and rarely have to deal with random boners. However, your farts don’t stink any less. Nor are they cute. No one giggles and says, “How adorable! Did you get a whiff of that old codger’s ass vapors? Makes me want to nuzzle his belly and give him a zerbert.” So don’t pass wind in public. You didn’t do it when you were forty and doubling your age doesn’t automatically entitle you to a “free gas pass.”
7) Just because your hearing isn’t as great as it used to be doesn’t mean mine isn’t absolutely perfect. Therefore, when you choose to watch television without your hearing aids inserted and/or turned on, you may be forcing others, namely ME, to listen to reruns of Lawrence Welk whether they (again, ME) like it or not. Personally, this can be irritating when I’m trying to watch – say, True Blood. Polka and vampires go together like Rick Perry and the number 3. Furthermore, if you find that you are constantly punching the upward facing volume arrow on your remote and, yet, the sound emanating from the television is not increasing, it’s because you’ve hit the volume limit. Which means your television is TOO FRIGGIN’ LOUD. So before you gingerly sit down in your Barcalounger with your glass of prune juice, all ready for a hot date with Andy Griffith and Angela Landsbury, do this for me. Charge your hearing aid batteries, insert said batteries into said hearing aids, position said hearing aids in your ears and turn them on. Then, once you’re all settled and comfortable, turn the volume on your hearing aids way, way up and the volume on your television way, way down. FYI, repeated exposure to the music of Lawrence Welk is the leading cause of psychotic episodes for people between the ages of 20 and 50. Don’t become a statistic.
8) Halitosis. Not sure what it means? Look it up and buy some mints. Not a small box of orange Tic Tacs, either. Purchase the jumbo megatron-sized crate of Altoids. Carry them with you at all times and – most importantly – use them. I don’t care how many times you soak your dentures every day, your mouth still smells like my grandparent’s bathroom – on the day the sewer backed up. No amount of Aqua Velva covers the odor of sulfur combined with day old Salisbury steak. My cat wouldn’t sniff your breath. Moreover, in the same way that your walker entitles you to additional personal space, your bad breath entitles me to more of the same when in your presence. Please stand at least a foot away when you speak to me. You never, ever have the right to lean in close and whisper to me for any reason. Even at a funeral. Unless you want it to be yours.
9) During Old Coot Snowbird Season, the traffic in Florida can get preeeettttty bad. For those of us with jobs, schedules and limited free time, it would be greatly appreciated if you would refrain from traveling on the roads between the hours of 7 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. I know what you’re going to say: But my Early Bird Special is between 4 and 5 p.m. Too damn bad! My husband’s right to get home within a reasonable time after leaving work is not superseded by your desire to save two lousy bucks on Surf ‘n Turf. And while we’re on that note, why do you insist on grabbing up all the early morning doctor appointments in town? You’re retired. You have absolutely nothing to do all day. Before you open your mouth, mahjong and bridge don’t qualify as things. I realize that 8 a.m. is mid-day to you, but people with J-O-B-S need those slots. So no appointments – anywhere – between the aforementioned hours. You’re not supposed to be on the damn roads anyway!
10) Don’t assume that people need or want to know anything about you, your former career, your military background, your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren or “the good ol days.” If we are curious about such things, we will inquire. So how do you apply this information to your visit to Florida? Let’s say you need to drop off a prescription. Don’t give me that look. You geezers take more drugs than Charlie Sheen. So, you’re at Walgreens (Not “the Walgreens” – it’s just called Walgreens. No need to insert an article in front of the name of any store.). When the clerk asks if she can help you, the appropriate response is: Yes, thank you. Here’s my prescription. What time should I return to pick it up?” She will give you a time. You can thank her again as politeness is always appreciated, but nothing more need be said.
Seriously. Don’t utter another word. Especially this: Thank you. What’s your name, dearie? I can’t quite make out your name tag. I don’t know why they make ’em so small. How am I supposed to call you by your name? Isn’t that the point of a name tag? Hold on a sec. Just let me get out my readers. (Two minutes elapse as you rummage through your purse, locate your glasses, wipe them with one of those moldy tissues from the bottom of your bag and perch them on your nose.) Oh, my. You look just like my granddaughter, Mindy. And whaddya know – your name is Cindy. How funny is that? What are the odds? Harold, come over here! Doesn’t she look just like Cindy? And her name is Mindy. Their names rhyme. Oh, Cindy, I gotta show you a picture of her. No, okay. What time did you say my prescription would be ready again? You know, I never used to have to take blood pressure medication, but ever since I developed hemorrhoids, my doctor said I should take ’em. I guess he’s worried that I could strain while on the toilet and have a heart attack. But I take an aspirin everyday. You know, one of the baby ones…” Have you caught on yet? If you do this, particularly when there is a line of people waiting behind you, it could be dangerous. Codgers have been bludgeoned to death with their own walkers for much more minor infractions.
Now was that so bad? You probably thought I was going to be unreasonable. But I’m sure you can agree that these are simple orders that must be followed under penalty of death by firing squad requests. Following them will ensure that we all continue to co-exist in the Sunshine State peacefully. On a side note, Snowbird Season officially ends on Mother’s Day. Please make your travel arrangements to leave the state now. Right now. I’m not kidding. I’m holding a butter knife, you know. And I’m irritated. Are you dialing US Airways right this second? Good. Hurry. My neighbor’s been watching Lawrence Welk for the last three hours straight and I’m not feeling so good.
The Taller Than Average Woman and Pretty Much Everyone Under the Age of Seventy in the State of Florida