Growing up around DC, I remember seeing people wear t-shirts that had, “TOURIST” on them
with a big circle and a slash through the word. I recall a feeling of kinship with the people that
wore the t-shirts. My impression of tourists was dim; they ambled aimlessly from monument to
monument like cattle on a hot day, snarling traffic and generally being a nuisance. I swore that
I’d never be, “that guy.”

In the Keys, we’d done our homework to assure we were well prepared for travel and fishing.

We launched and retrieved our boat at local ramps with the precision and speed indicative of
a well-oiled machine. On the water, we avoided anchoring on the coral, were polite to other
boaters and managed to steer clear of stupid tourist mistakes.

So after a successful trip, it was time to head home. This time we headed back up through
Miami during morning rush hour traffic. Ugh. So, we kissed our wives, got in the truck and
headed north. The closer we got to Miami, the slower traffic moved. Being unfamiliar with
local traffic patterns, my strategy was to get in the left lane and drive as fast as I possibly could.

As we approached Miami, we saw signs for an upcoming toll booth. Matt suggested because
we were towing a boat, I might need to be in the right lane. I didn’t really disagree as much as
I thought I’d scoot along another mile or so and THEN start working my way over. That was a
really, really poor decision.

About the time I started moving to the right, traffic slowed to a crawl. That was when we saw
the signs that read, “Wide loads Use Right Lane Only”. I had about 5 lanes to cross to get in
the right lane and traffic was completely stop-and-go for at least a mile ahead of the toll plaza.

I put my turn signal on and started to nose into the lane to my right. I figured that a big truck
towing a boat would at least intimidate enough drivers to get me over in time. I was wrong.
Apparently, drivers in Miami see the combination of out of state tags and a boat trailer as a
personal affront, because not one single car moved so much as an inch to let us over.

With about a quarter mile to go, I began to suspect that we just weren’t going to make it to the
right lane. Matt was showing the early signs of panic. He rolled down the passenger window
and pointed in an attempt to signal we were changing lanes, only to cower back inside the truck
just in time to avoid being struck by a soccer mom in a Chrysler minivan who actually swerved
toward us. Miami is a tough town.

After several attempts to move over, I finally gave up. I knew the boat would fit through the
toll booth and told Matt, “They’re just going to have to let us through one of the middle lanes.”
It was right then that we saw the toll booth attendant actually get out of the booth, point at us
and start waving her arms. I took that as a bad sign. Matt actually crawled down onto the floor
of the truck, whining about us getting shot on the highway by a bunch of ticked-off locals. I
realized at that exact moment, that I’d become, “That guy”, the idiot tourist.

As we inched forward, we could hear the toll booth attendant yelling at us. My Spanish is
a pretty rusty, but from the little I could understand, I guessed that the she too, was well
accomplished in the art of profanity. When the attendant got closer, we understood that she
was telling us the boat wouldn’t fit through the toll lane and that we had to BACK UP and move
to the right lane.

I said, “Lady, there’s no way in hell that I’m backing up while towing a boat on an Interstate
during rush hour traffic. If you want us in the right lane, you’re going to have to stop traffic.” I
expected her to let us through, but I was wrong again.

She motioned to several other toll booth attendants and they ALL walked out and stopped traffic
on 5 lanes of the highway. By that time, the locals were close to a riot… horns were blowing,
people were swearing at us in at least 3 languages and some were even throwing empty beer
cans at my truck. Matt had sunk so low in his seat; he was melding into the carpet floor mat.

Once traffic stopped, I hastily made a 90 degree right-hand turn from the left lane, mowed
down an entire row of lane dividers and squealed into the far right toll lane. When I got to the
window, the toll booth attendant sat down, shook his head and said, “you best keep right on
moving, mister”, and that’s exactly what we did, because we’d turned into the idiot tourists…

One Response to “The Idiot Tourist”

  1. It is ALWAYS better to be to the RIGHT than to the left!

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