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Monday, April 9, 2012

"Tio, mira ese carro loco" (Uncle, look at the crazy car)

The first time I took my nephew for a ride in my new car he screamed from his window: "mira ese carro loco" or "look at the crazy car."  He was actually describing the Chevy Impala parked on the side of the old Police Museum building on Biscayne.  I just figured he was talking about all the carro locos that I see whenever I drive around Miami.  

Now I can say without hesitation that Miami has a car culture.  To a large extent you are saying a lot about who you are by what you drive. As we all know, us Miamians are not exactly about "understatement".  As self-centered as we are, we know that opening the door of that late model import says, "ago ergo sum" I drive, therefore I am.  In Miami it's more like: "ago carus pretiosa, ego sum melius quam." Which I believe using internet translations means:" I drive an expensive car therefore I am better than you."

Aside from any car snobbery.....or car affinity that Miamians may have, we still have developed a distinct driving style that tests patience, challenges souls and has an outcome that would be respected by those participating in the hunger games. Local driving is not for the feint of heart. I thought I'd add some simple guidelines for newcomers and new drivers. A Miami driving style, not unlike it's cooking, influenced by a hint Argentinian arrogance, heavy dollops of Cuban can-do and dash of Haitian frustration, pour it over some Anglo repression and you have what I call a wonderful driving South Florida souffle. 

Let me start with turn signals. Don't.  Why would you want anyone to know ahead of time what you plan on doing? Would you tell a thief the combination to your safe?  No. Would you tell someone in poker what's in your hand? So why would you tell another driver that you are about to take away the real estate right in front of them?  Signals are your way of announcing what you are doing, now.  Like when a small kid goes to the bathroom....I'm pooping NOW...in front of you.  The job of the other driver is to react through resignation, rage, slamming on brakes, horn, what have you. Blinkers in Miami are your way of saying "I win!"  Not like in other cities where blinkers say in wimp language "can you please let me in?"  
Licence and registration please.
Speed. To be honest,  I don't know one person who has gotten a speeding ticket on 95 in Miami-Dade, ever.  I've seen some pretty cool car races, spectacular accidents, but never seen a car ever pulled over anywhere on I95. Please speak up if any of you have. So to me it means that it's basically a stretch of highway that has been ceded over to the lawless masses. A stretch of road in poor repair except for the "luxo-lanes" that rich white people use to get from the Broward County Line to Downtown without having to share the lanes with the rest of us folks who may have a residence or business in areas between downtown and the county line. There are four places in Miami-Dade where you will get definitely get speeding tickets: Virginia Gardens....only fools speed on 36th street between 63rd & 67th avenues. Second is the town of Medley(hamlet of) the two police officers are waiting for you just off that bridge that crosses from Okeechobee Blvd. How a trailer park actually became a town is a mystery to me. Bal Harbor: speed or ride a bike on the sidewalk at your own peril. Any school zone in Miami Dade. Yeah the school zones are where the cops get that "speeding quota" that they claim they don't have. Otherwise speed at will.

Most annoying driving thing to me: the abuelita en la Corolla. I am sure the Toyota Corolla is a great car, however every abuelita or Haitian granmè drives one.  The Haitian one will be white. Haitians as a rule only drive white cars or vans, and typically they drive very, very, very, very slow....with their hazard lights on. 

And that brings me to point of hazard lights. They are for hazards, like when you break down in the middle of the street and you're too lazy to wave down someone to push your vehicle three feet so it's out of traffic. You don't need put them on when it rains, you shoulds put your lights on when it rains.  Hazard lights are good when you're pulled over, not for driving on a busy interstate at 15 miles an hour in a torrential summer storm. Hazard lights won't help you when the semi, who is driving sixty, slams into your rear, hazard lights or no. 

So go out there fellow "carros locos". Miami roads are calling. Honk, speed, cut off, curse...because we are free creatures on the roads (except on the 836 in Sweetwater around the first of the month, FHP quota time). Tickets? Who cares, there's the Ticket Clinic!  We are city of refugees....who by nature are people on the move, spirits fleeing tyranny, seeking liberty, drive Miami, drive! Ago Ergo Sum!