Wify attended a Buddhist Chanting session in the morning last Saturday at Connie’s home after which we were invited by her to a vegetarian lunch at her home to celebrate the arrival of the NIU (Niu being the Chinese character for the ox/bull/buffalo that is pronounced in the same way as New) year. After dropping off Wify and her entourage at Connie’s house, I proceeded to the office to do some works. In order to save time, I decided to take the only tolled expressway in town to the office, thinking that it will be a swift journey, what with the weekend traffic that is at worst light.
However, I sensed something amiss the moment I exited the first toll: traffic was piling up ahead, but I was too far to identify the cause. It’s only when I was inching near the next entry point that the reason became apparent, first being alerted by the strobic blue light emitting from the top of police cars, stopping all cars behind them. Then, one by one, the convoy of motorized floats began to emerge from the toll, flanked by police outriders on motorcycles. All in there was about a dozen of them. Then only it dawned upon me that it was time for Gasparilla Children Parade, which usually precedes the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion a week later. However, I found out later that this was to be postponed by another week because of the Super Bowl weekend on Feb 1.
For the rest of the way till my exit point, we all toed the line, doing about 30mph on the expressway, a trip that would have taken me less time if I had taken the state road. So much for my planning, as if echoing the adage that man proposes, but God disposes.
That would have been an uneventful end to the traffic disruption if not for the fact that I committed another mental error, due to my haste in getting out of the imposed delay. I normally exit at the Hyde Park Toll. Those days we were staying at South Tampa, and taking the Expressway to Connie’s home was expedient. Occasionally, we have also exited via an earlier westbound toll at Willow Avenue, which is unmanned. That is, either one pays with the right amount of change (75 cents) by throwing three quarters (or other combinations of coin denominations) into a funneling receptacle (I think it does not recognize notes, even though if one does not mind not getting the change back), or SunPass, an electronic prepaid card. Then I had neither, and worse, completely forgot that the station was unattended and yet took the approach to the Willow Avenue Exit.
By the time I realized my folly, I had already covered three quarters of the approach way, which is decidedly one-way toward the toll house. For several seconds, but it seemed like ages, I was considering my options. The first thought was to engage the reverse gear, and I actually reversed about a car length, skirting along the anti-impact rail. The constant stream of approaching cars from my rear view mirror convinced me not to compound my error with yet a bigger one.
So I pulled to the side, took out a dollar note, locked the car, and walked next to the receptacle. The first car had a SunPass, so could not be stopped. The next one was a van, driven by a middle-aged man in work shirts, ferrying other passengers spotting similar attire.
As the car stopped at the toll, I accosted him, putting on my best earnest look. “Could I have a change for quarters?” I blurted out, and at the same time noticed that he had a palmful of change. “Sure, I have just what you wanted.” And the exchange was concluded promptly, with profuse thanks from me to the good Samaritan. And the next moment I was in my office, reliving the eventful morning and being convinced that doing things the right way would always turn out to be right and expedient.
The MacDonald's float followed by another entering the highway to my right.
Another float just exiting the tollhouse, flanked by a police outrider (shot through my car's front passenger side window).
The caravan of motorized floats making its facilitated way into the Expressway ahead of us.