As I reach my office; I look down to see soaked black boots and almost as equally soaked army green cargo pants. Not an appealing
sight (both in clothes selection and clothes condition, however, this is what happens when you wake up at Five in the morning to get ready to catch a 6:20 AM bus whose inconsistent service means the bus could arrive at 6:10 AM instead). I muse at the fact that I just walked .5 miles from the last bus stop on route eight to my office (approximately a 15 minute walk). Normally, I don’t mind the walk. In fact, I look forward to it since it gives me a reason to be active and to enjoy the outdoors (and also because sometimes, there is a CSX train parked on the tracks that I have to cross to get to work….I love trains). However, on mornings like today, I am reminded why at times I would not mind owning a car.
FLASH BACK TO 15 MINUTES BEFORE I REACH THE OFFICE
I hop off the bus and quickly open my red umbrella. The sight must have been comical to some motorists as they fly by a decently sized guy wearing a black and grey sweater, army green cargo pants, black boots, and a brown book bag all the while holding a bright red umbrella. I have to admit, its comical just even thinking about it. I start my journey by crossing my first street, which is the same street that the bus has just dropped me off at. In front of me now resides a discreet building which officially belongs to the fire department yet somehow seems too small for its function. I continue down the shoulder of the streets walking more on grass than on paved ground (purposefully. I do live in Florida after all. Even though Florida is notorious for dependable rains; something that has not been the case this year; the fact that Floridians don’t know how to drive in the rain is a fact I take very seriously).
Cars fly by at speeds that seem too fast to be safe on a wet oily road. I make my way to cross the right turn lane with the aim to reach the little concrete island about 10 -15 feet away. I succeed, only to wait until all lights are red for oncoming traffic (I have to depend on the street lights since there are no pedestrian signals to inform me of an opportune time to cross this 6 lane major highway).
Finally the lights are red, and I cross the street, walking at a quick pace. I hesitate to run since the highway has deep groves on the asphalt; a clear sign of high and constant use of fast traveling, heavy vehicles. It’s possible that In the process of running I could trip over one of these groves, fall, and get ran over by a speeding turning vehicle. I cross the first set of three lanes to land in the grass median. Thank God it’s wide enough to provide a clear area of rest from this busy and obviously dangerous highway.
I check to make sure that the incoming traffic is far enough to provide me time to walk (not run) across the second set of three lanes. I make my move, noting the amount of oil on the road. This is a very real (and obvious) danger to speeding vehicles that don’t have the ability to see the rainbow flow of chemically enhanced run off on the street; a tall (very tall) sign of the presence of oil.
I make it across the second set of three lanes only to land in the shoulders of the highway, greeted by knee high grass (my red umbrella can’t help me here). From my torso up I have remained dry due to the protection of my umbrella. From my torso down; well, that’s a different story. As the grass part ways in utter complaint of my uncaring stomping, they release heavy sacks of water filled ammunition directed to make my crossing as wet and miserable as possible. I accept the challenge, moving forward through the forest of weed and wild flowers, coming to a brief clearing where I am greeted with a pleasant sight; rail road tracks; and an even more pleasant surprise on it; a train engine. I take in the beautiful sight as I cautiously cross the track, making sure that the engine is indeed parked, and not in the process of moving.
Four obstacles down, and now it seems I’m home free. On this side of the rail road tracks, the grass is not nearly as tall, and there is somewhat of a makeshift path along the street. That is where the grass is not as tall as its surroundings to the point where a clear delineation of a path is seen. Even though the path is there, the grass still protests my clear stomping assault upon it by counter attacking with stickers and bombs of water. My boots and pants are bearing the evidence of a very heavy and brutal battle. Sidewalks would be advantageous to me right now but I remind myself that I live in Florida….they don’t believe in sidewalks here in Florida. I continue my walk. The rain has now ceased, allowing me to fold my red umbrella and make my sight a little less comical. As I bring my umbrella down to finalize the closing procedure, my eyes meet a very solemn reminder of the predicament I’m in. The body of a very large…very large….very large, snake. The clear marking on its skin tells me that this probably was a rattle snake (the rattler was gone thanks to the body’s ghastly dismemberment). The reminder comes as a bit of shock; but a stern warning that yes, there are wild animals living in these high grassy planes and yes, they can harm me and yes, they are very…very…very real, oh and yes, they are big. I have no option but to keep walking.
These grasses are tall enough that a snake like the one I just finished observing could easily hide in, and I would not even realize of their presence until I was right over them. A slightly frightful thought, all I could do was pray and move forward. Sidewalks definitely would be a welcome addition to this road.
I turn into the street that my office is on. A sigh of relief escapes my mouth due to the fact that the lawns here are mowed, not wild and overgrown as the one I just finished trudging through. My journey is not over yet. I still have a bout a three minute walk in which I battle huge 18 wheelers speeding across this street as they come to their industrial destination. I stay clear of the puddles of water on the street noting the sheer splash factor from these huge vehicles.
Finally, my trip ends at my office where I now stand; musing over how wet I am, but thankful for arriving safely. I have been on a mini adventure. Kind of like a Lord of the Rings type of adventure, where I had to face dangerous swamps, mystical creatures (dead snake) and behemoth dragons (18 wheelers). Ok maybe not as exciting as Lord of the Rings, but definitely and adventure. All this to say, FLORIDA, WE THE PEOPLE NEED SIDEWALKS!!!
Juan Castillo Jr.