Thursday, April 03, 2008

Horn Happy Hallandale

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.--As a native New Yorker; Corona, Queens, actually, Ive been taking abuse all my life. You people have no patience. Youre rude. Youre always in a hurry. And so it goes.

But know that the city, a.k.a. Manhattan, runs a bad second to this place. Now I dont know about Miami or Pembroke Pines or nearby Hollywood or Ft. Lauderdale. Cant speak to those locations, although Aventura might be in the conversation.

With the exception of the hard-trying staff people at Gulfstream Park, who fight through a tough PR battle every day, Hallandale Beach Blvd., that stretch from Biscayne Blvd. to the ocean, is the Rude Capital of the World.

Now in some circles, Im known for my impatience. Some might even say Im famous for it, especially behind the wheel. But here, many wait staffers and service personnel are treated as less-than by impatient, superior customers who look them in the eye only when theyre in their face.

Pardon the digression.

If I were a police officer with my own cruiser, the only traffic tickets I would dispense is for failure to keep right. The left lane is the passing lane. Capice? I hate selfishness and lack of attention on the road. It causes accidents.

Here, in the Rude Capital of the World, the millisecond a traffic signal turns green, the person behind me is on the horn. Im no :21 and :44 guy away from the light, but Im a solid :22 4/5 and :45 3/5. But that simply wont do on HBB.

My wife refuses to drive here. These people are crazy, she says.

Highway drivers differ in Florida depending on where you are in the state. When I was traveling north from Tampa to Ocala on I-75 three weeks ago, I nearly was put in a ditch by a large RV with Volkswagon in tow.

I was passing the RV at 80 m.p.h.--the speed limit is a realistic 70 on that stretch of highway--and my right fender had reached nearly even with his cab. At that instant, he changed lanes; no signal, nothing. And not that a signal would have helped at that point.

Fortunately, my peripheral vision is good and I reacted quickly. More fortunate was the fact there was a left shoulder separating my car from what appeared to be an eight-foot ditch. Going 80, depth perception can be a bit tricky. I was further distracted by a bright white light flashing before my eyes.

Parenthetically, there were at least three other incidents on that trip in which drivers changed lanes directly in front of me without signaling as I prepared to pass in the speed lane.

On west coast highways, I will give left-lane habitus credit for this: If you pass on the right they will move into the right lane immediately. They dont just camp out there daydreaming. At least they pay attention.

But not so much here in Horn Happy Hallandale. Between the blue-haired crowd, the South Florida snowbirds from north of the border, and heavy-footed short-tempered locals, youre always driving defensively. Every days an adventure.

Adding to all this, theres no cell phone ban here. Imagine? There are two states in which driving is a well known challenge. But in Florida and California, go right ahead and chat away at the peril of the other guy.

I only need to survive another 24 hours in HHH. My return to New York was delayed by a small medical emergency until Thursday morning. Im scheduled to be in the air when entries for the Wood Memorial are drawn at Aqueduct.

Next stop, South Ozone Park, where if I commit a driving faux pas, a middle finger will be raised in salute, pointing out, as it were, the error of my ways.

In the interests of full disclosure, I wasnt in Hallandale 30 minutes when involved in a minor fender-bender with a pre-med student. She was concerned that the slight damage she incurred would be an inconvenient delay to her taking title to a 2008 model. She later explained that her 2004 BMW was getting a little old.

Fortunately, I was in good hands. And no one was hurt.

Written by John Pricci

Accompanying Photo Gallery to "Racing to the Kentucky Derby".
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