The last vestige of the lingering winter holiday season was locked permanently into memory today when we sent our S back to Hume Hall to begin the 2nd semester of his freshman year. First our elder D returned to Oregon on Dec 31, then I went back to work on Jan 2, followed a day later by our younger D back to school. And the return of our S back to Gainesville today completed the holiday ritual.
So long, 2006. You have been kind to us. Now we have to focus on 2007, but you will occupy your rightful place in our treasure trove of nostalgia.
We left Tampa just before 1.30 pm. Earlier in the morning, I had seen a "condo for sale" poster as an insert in today’s Tampa Tribune. It’s the Equestrian Parc at Highwoods Preserve located at New Tampa. It’s located off exit 270 of I-75, which is along the way to Gainesville. So we thought we would check it out since the deal offering great winter savings seemed attractive enough. Who knows, our apartment hunt may become a house (to own) hunt. A check using Mapquest says that it’s about 22 miles from my office. Errrr, there may not be ideal. But what the hack, I can always listen to an audio book or something if the commute turns out to be a long one.
As if fate would have it, the intention became moot as I had taken the I-275 North, thinking that exit 270 of I-75 is after the I-275 Bypass North junction on the way to Gainesville. It turns out that the bypass junction is at about exit 275, which means I will have to go south on I-75 to reach exit 270. Well, there will be other days, so I rationalized.
Just before the junction of I-75 and the Florida Turnpike, we came up behind an ambulance traveling on the outermost (passing) lane. Its lights were flashing, but no siren. And it’s moving at the posted limit (70 mph) of I-75. OK, slightly beyond.
Now, here was the dilemma. Can one overtake the ambulance, flashing light but no siren at this instance? It did not appear that the ambulance was in any great hurry, meaning on an emergency flight. Other cars too appeared to slow down and kept behind the ambulance, which continued to stay on the passing lane.
After some time, some adventurous drivers seemed to get impatient and decided to test the waters, so to speak. The vehicle first moved to the middle lane, drew level with the ambulance, and kept in pace for some moments, then inched forward ever that slightly. Then it accelerated further and soon was out of the “magnetic pull” of the ambulance for good.
Emboldened by this dash of audacity, others vehicles started to do likewise. But some were more circumspect and chose to use the innermost lane to overtake the ambulance, laterally distancing themselves from the ambulance to the maximum extent possible, and gradually moved their way back to the middle and then the outermost lane, and disappeared from sight.
There was a car that sped by so fast in front of the ambulance that it received a honking from the ambulance. Probably the car driver did not realize that the line of cars he had just overtaken in a hurry was kind of anchored to the back of the ambulance.
Since I was not sure what the highway code has to say with regard to the situation at hand and I did not want to assume that the other drivers who had left us in the dust knew what they were doing, I decided to play safe and followed the ambulance dutifully for the remaining journey to Gainesville. And yes, that’s where the ambulance was headed too.
So if anybody knows whether it’s a traffic violation to overtake an emergency vehicle, let me know. But I’m sure if it were a police car, then no driver in his/her right mind would attempt what I saw today.
And as if to test that, that was exactly what happened on my return leg. Along I-275 after Exit 52 (Fowler), I was traveling on the outermost lane when I noticed that the car in front of mine slowed down. Then I saw the reason: the car was behind a police car, but this time not even a trace of flashing light. Unlike the earlier episode with the ambulance, the police car seemed to hold an imaginary barrier across the remaining width of the road as all cars remained behind the police car.
So the police car seems to serve as a psychological deterrent to would-be speedsters. On the other hand, some are willing to take chances with other emergency vehicles the mission of which is life saving rather than crime busting, or in this case, netting traffic violators.