Now about that tornado. Sorry, but it just fizzled out about half a mile away from the hotel, folks, but it was good while it lasted. It wasn't the only dramatic event that narrowly missed me though - I still inwardly groan when I remember the other one...
One sunday morning, I woke up late on my day off, had breakfast and decided to drive to Coco Beach. It was a characteristically fine day, and the drive to Coco was calm and leisurely - or it would have been if I hadn't found myself sitting at a red light on the wrong side of a six-lane highway and about to miss my turn off by about 25 miles.
As all you Americans know, when the lights turn from red to green on a big intersection over there, everyone gently depresses the accelerator and smoothly and calmly pulls away from the lights, taking about 5 minutes to reach the maximum speed of 55 mph, if at all. Everyone, that is, except maniacs.
I had already learned how sedately Americans pull away from red lights compared to - say - Italian drivers, who treat a trip to the shops as if they were in pole position at Monza, so I formulated a simple but effective plan.
Here in the UK we have an amber light between the red and the green, just to get us used to the idea that the lights are about to change, but in the States, they just go green. I selected sports mode in the little automatic car and put it in drive, all the while staring at the red light as if my life depended on it. Suddenly, it turned green, and I rammed my foot onto the pedal and cut across 6 lanes in a 45 degree angle, leaving smoke in my wake. I must have been doing about 75 by the time I reached the junction, and I can honestly say that I have never pissed off so many fellow drivers in one go before.
I arrived at Coco, found a place to park and made my way to the beach. It was like a scene from'Baywatch'. I have never seen so many unfeasibly fit looking, young women in one place before. To make matters worse, they were all in the smallest bikinis I had ever seen and - even more worse - playing beach volleyball. I swear I could have taken any one of them home with me, just to use her backside as a nut-cracker.
Making my way to the huge pier, I decided to have some lunch up there, if I could stop the pelicans from getting to it before I did. I stopped off halfway down the promenade, and looked over to see about 300 people swimming happily in the warm water below. Beside me stood a middle-aged, very white-looking Jewish couple who were staring at their young son who was in the water with the rest of them, about 50 feet below. Without warning, the mother suddenly shouted out to her son:
"DAVID!!! GET OUTA DA WATER - THERE'S SHARKS IN THERE!!!"
Her husband went apoplectic.
"What da hell do ya think your saying??!! Do ya wanna cause a stampede?? There are no damn sharks!!! Can you see a shark in there???!!! Jesus Christ!!!"
So I had a fine lunch, limped past the girls on the beach and drove back to Orlando.
That night, I paid a visit to my old friend Bob at the Tikki bar, and as he poured me a beer, he asked me, "So, did you go and see the launch this morning?"
What? A Launch? A NASA Space-Shuttle launch? This morning? A few miles away from where I had just driven? A Launch that had been scheduled for months and that nobody had told me about? I don't fucking believe it... Pour me another beer please, Bob.