Be It Ever So Humble...
Well, it's official now-- Emily's a doctor. In celebration, she removed my tonsils. It was pretty awesome.
There's probably not a whole lot to say about the trip itself that will be of much interest to anyone else-- Emily's mom, stepdad, dad, and stepmom were all there, and everyone seemed to have a good time. Emily's advisor-- who was also on my dissertation committee-- came out for "a drink" with us, and we wound up closing the bar. Saturday morning, we had a lovely visit with two former professors-- now friends of ours, I guess, which is oddly flattering; two people who used to inspire (and, to some degree, intimidate) us now invite us over to their house so that we can get caught up over coffee and be entertained by their kids, who were quite small when we left. We also saw our friends Erin and David and met their daughter, Olive, which was a real high point of the weekend for us.
Our first night back was sort of an exercise in wistfulness and nostalgia. As Emily had more to drink, she kept looking around and smiling. There was something exciting about being in a college bar in a college town where the community actually really appreciates the college-- here in Florida, it seems like a lot of people find the entire idea of higher education to be an imposition, a boondoggle designed to waste the money of taxpayers and the time of students who could otherwise be engaged in real work. I'll admit, that first night there, Emily wasn't the only one who felt a longing for the place where we used to live.
That longing pretty much died once the snow started, though. The entire time we were there, the temperature rarely got above 30 degrees. But as the snow that began on Friday night and continued on through Saturday seeped into our shoes and the wind turned our faces bright red while we scraped ice off the windshield, we both reached the same conclusion: This sucks. While on the first night, Emily and I both agreed-- over quite a few beers-- that returning to a place like Columbia might be a worthwhile goal for our academic future, by the middle of the afternoon on Saturday, we were both vowing to never leave Florida again.
Of course, once we got back to Florida last night, it took about a minute and a half before some douchebag quickly jerked his car into our lane, causing Emily to slam on the brakes and lay down on the horn. He moved further to the right, and as we passed him I saw the guy shooting us the nastiest look-- like we had almost killed him. So up went my middle finger, naturally. And has his eyes widened in surprised anger, it dawned on me, "Hey, this guy might be a crazy person with a gun. Why antagonize him?" Of course, the midwest has plenty of crazy people with guns too, but there are just so many more people in South Florida, it stands to reason that there are, of course, also more crazy people with guns. That's why I usually don't make obscene gestures at strangers, no matter how justified such gestures might be. But I'd forgotten, briefly.
Anyway, the guy didn't shoot me, but we did encounter two pretty dramatic-looking car accidents on the stretch of highway between Fort Lauderdale and Boynton Beach-- we hadn't seen any accidents in Missouri, even with the blizzard. But around here, it's remarkable when we don't see an accident, it seems.
It would be inaccurate to say that I like the people in the midwest more than I like the people of South Florida. In fact, at this point I have way more friends in South Florida than I have in the midwest, and there aren't too many people in the world that I like more than I like Brian and Amy and a few of my colleagues. But, I will say that I generally find that South Florida contains more frustratingly inconsiderate people than the midwest-- again, that's not to say that people in the midwest are "more polite" (because that's not really what it is)-- they just frequently seem more aware of the people surrounding them, somehow. Which is why people in South Florida will cross four lanes of traffic despite the presence of other vehicles in those lanes, or talk on their cell phones during movies, or will have tearful family reunions, complete with hugs and kisses, by their car under a sign at the airport that reads "No Parking or Standing." These people aren't bad, they're just kinda clueless.
Of course, Missouri was the first state in the union to put a gay marriage ban in its constitution, so maybe cluelsslessness comes in a variety of flavors.
Anyway, as we exited the highway, we wound up alongside a car with an older couple-- maybe mid-to-late sixties. Not elderly, just old. They were wearing their "country club casual"-- polo shirts, a little too much jewelry (on her, anyway), khaki shorts (I admit this much is conjecture-- but that seems to be the uniform, I've found). Anyway, this allowed Emily and me to play our favorite game since moving to South Florida, which is "Speculate on the people in the car next to us."
"What's the biggest secret he's kept from her in forty years of marriage?" I asked Emily, hoping she wouldn't say something as trite as "He's had numerous affairs." That's too obvious.
Emily looked at them, thought about the issue momentarily, then answered, "Years ago, in college, he hired a prostitute for his first time, justifying it to himself that it was 'training,' that he'd know what he was doing when he was eventually married."
I found this to be an almost excellent answer, but there was something missing. "Not college. His Army days."
Emily nodded. "Of course!"
This is a game we never played in Missouri-- only here. And in the end, I guess that's probably why-- as a writer-- I'm more attracted to South Florida than the midwest. The people might be ruder, or less considerate, or more angry, or just more tightly-wound, but they're also infinitely more interesting. Whatever odd fiction Emily and I might come up with during a typical game of "Speculate on the people in the car next to us," I feel quite confident that the truth about our neighbors is even more compelling.