LIFE PUBLISHES ITSELF© November 14, 2018
THE TEDIOUS ART OF THE LARGO STANDOFF
by Christopher LeClere
LARGO, FL — Let me start this by saying I am a Florida native. I was born in Jacksonville and either lived or worked in Palm Coast, St. Augustine, and Gainesville. I have spent untold amounts of time traversing the state from Tallahassee to Miami for both work and pleasure. I have crawled along I-4 from Altamonte Springs to Disney Springs, I have sharked for parking in downtown Miami, pressed my luck with the lights on Atlantic Avenue in Delay, and even know about the 275 slowdown where it meets 19 in St Petersburg. I know this state has its issues with “snowbird drivers” going 40 in the fast lane with their right turn blinkers blazing for miles mixing with those crazy kids in their modified nitrous cars. And dear God, a drop of rain falls from the sky and everyone puts on their hazard lights and slows down like they’re cruising A1A on a Saturday night. I know the state has its issues with driving, and thought I’d seen the worst of it, until Largo.
So let’s set the scene on how I almost had a stroke while driving through Pinellas County’s bustling metropolis of Largo. My fiancée and I were planning an epic road trip through all of Florida’s major cities. Starting in Pensacola, snaking down the west coast to Key West, then up the east coast ending in Jacksonville. Somewhere in the planning phases one of her childhood friends messages and asks if we would like to house-sit their four bedroom, 3.5 bath ranch home with a screened-in ground swimming pool and barbeque grill. We agreed to stay at the house while they skirted off on a two week European holiday of a lifetime.
At first everything in Largo seemed normal.
Small Florida town, we quickly found the usual Publix, WalMart, and CVS. But after the first day or so we realized, things are a bit different in Largo. First let’s talk about the driving. Folks in Largo drive unnecessarily slow. I mean there has not been a day where the person in front of me wasn’t going 20 miles per hour under the speed limit with eight or nine car lengths between them, and the car in front of them. My fiancée thinks the folks here drive so slowly so they won’t have to pay attention to where they are going. At first I dismissed it as a joke, but in two weeks I saw Largo drivers (and I kid you not), reading books, watching TV on their phones which were propped on their dashboard, and eating cereal from a bowl with a spoon. That may explain why drivers feel the need to come to a full and complete stop before turning off a major roadway onto another roadway where they have the right of way - they don’t want to spill the milk or accidentally change the channel.
And don’t even get me started on parking lots. I saw a man in a small Hyundai actually perform a NINE-POINT-TURN out of the Publix parking space. NINE POINT TURN. And God forbid either of you have to actually pass each other in a two lane parking lot, it will create what I now call “The Largo Standoff.” Two drivers, both awkwardly aggressive and self-righteous will come to a full stop and just stare, maybe even honk at the other until one of them just accelerates past the other, no real driving skill or negotiation required, but it seems to an unwritten rule that you must posture before passing. Speaking of which, we were woken up at eight on a Saturday morning by two pickup trucks, one hauling a trailer with yard equipment, the other a mobile pet groomer, blaring horns and insults at each other in the middle of a “Largo Standoff” because neither would attempt to pass until the other was completely off the roadway. After, and I kid you not, 12 minutes of this “Largo Standoff” posture-before-passing ritual the dog groomer decided to accelerate at a reasonable pace and safely passed the lawn man who was still intent on giving very misguided driving directions.
Unfortunately, this behavior isn’t regulated to behind-the-wheel behavior. We witnessed the most Largo moment while at the WalMart on Missouri. I accidentally cracked the coffee pot while handwashing it and we decided to get a replacement. Long story short the replacement didn’t fit so we had to return it. If you every get the chance to stand in the return lane at a WalMart in Largo - don’t. The woman in front of us was returning a box of tampons, and when the clerk rang up the wrong sales price for the refund causing the shopper to receive ONE dollar less returned, the shopper didn’t just politely explain the discrepancy, nope, she called the employee several four letter words and slammed her hand on the counter. That’s when they had to call a manager over. The manager was already in a short mood because another employee was trying to explain in the best Idiocracy logic he could muster why he should be allowed to cut out of work several hours early. On the way out of the store a young mother threatened to “beat the shit” out of her son if he didn’t stop hitting his sister, and scolded the young child for “being so violent”.
I realize that small towns have a quaint feeling and life moves a little slower, and I have even met a few interesting people here. Unfortunately they all ended up living in St. Pete or Tampa and were just passing through. I guess it’s true - Largo is just a middle class fancy version of Pinellas Park.
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