Up front I want to say, I like most change. Change is good, it mixes life up a little and gives it some spice. But, that doesn’t mean all change is welcomed or that some things aren’t missed.
I got to thinking about this during my annual Florida fishing trip. There are many reasons why I like to stay and camp at Sebastian Inlet State Park on the East Coast of Florida. First of all, the fishing is usually fantastic, the facilities modern and maintained, and the people friendly. On this trip I was disappointed by the seemingly smallest detail, they had changed the hand soap brand in the rest rooms. For 10 years the soap had the aroma of amaretto liqueur. I just loved every time I had an opportunity to wash the fish slim off my hands. This year was different. I actually was anticipating my first visit to the john so I could wash my hands and experience the sweet aroma of that soap. Wasn’t to be. Some #$@(*& changed brands and carved an empty hole in my vacation pleasures.
After leaving Sebastian I headed for Key West which meant at some time I’d end up on the Florida Turnpikes. While I don’t like paying to drive on the nation’s highways I did always enjoy the toll-booth attendants in Florida. They were usually female, usually attractive, usually friendly, and they wore the neatest Hawaiian style shirts with little mappy things of Florida all over them. Well, in the year I’ve been away Florida is tearing down the toll-booths and putting a ton of nice people out of work. In their places are cold, uncaring, robotic cameras that are not decorated with colorful little mappy things of Florida. They take a photo of your license plate and apparently send you a bill on occasion. I keep checking the mail box but mine’s not shown up yet. Hopefully their data base doesn’t contain Ohio plate numbers.
Another change that’s been going on for a long time and still bothers me is all the different automobile license plates each state now offers. I know the states are making money off these “specialty” plates but I’d rather pay a couple of dollars more and still be able to identify who I’m encountering on the highway of life. Florida is especially bad about this. I don’t know how many different tag designs they sell but it must be in the hundreds. I did notice that New York hasn’t changed much. Seems like their tags have been black and orange for generations. I’ve been upset with Ohio since they stopped putting county names on our tags. Now you have to know the numerical order in which each county was founded in the state. That’s simply too difficult. I can’t remember my children’s birth dates let alone a county’s number.
The Wal-Mart store in Florida City was always a great place to go. One of the main attractions was all the different RVs you’d see sleeping over in their parking lot each evening. It is a practice called boondocking or dry camping and Wal-Mart, for years has permitted people to spend the night in their parking lots while traveling. I’ve done this a number of times and it is good business for the stores. I’ve never spent a night without going in several times and spending money. Well, there are some stores that no longer permit boondocking and in Florida City the town government bought a campground and passed a law against staying the night at Wal-Mart. Free turned into $30 income for the city. Add that to the list of unappreciated change.
I was riding my bicycle on some back streets of St. Petersburg and many of the streets are still paved with bricks. I noticed the same thing in parts of Chillicothe. We should have never paved over our brick streets. Just think of the money we could have saved and the maintenance costs we wouldn’t be paying today. Those bricks are 100 years old and still going strong.
This list could go on but I’ll end with one last thought. The single most important thing to me that I don’t want to change is my living in a small town. After being on the road where you are a stranger it is so nice to be where most know your name. Where you have a family doctor who will respond to your phone message. Where the local pharmacy can’t do enough to get you through the battles with your insurance provider. Where a few local bankers aren’t so serious they won’t take the moment to tell you a joke, or listen to one. Where you have a local mechanic who will fix a minor problem and say, “I’ll get you next time”, when you ask what you own them. These are a few of my favorite things and I never want them to change.
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NOTE: After I completed this story I received a letter from the State of Florida with an opening phrase that read, “Dear recent visitor to Florida…”. It went on to state that my license plate had been read at two toll booths and I owed the Sunshine State $2.25 plus an additional $2 for processing fees. I would have had to pay this if the toll booths were still there and I’m going to write off the processing fees for what it saved me in not having to twice slow to a stop and wait in a line to pay. I will pay the bill but I think next time I take a trip to Florida I think I’ll either buy a Sun Pass or just drive around the turnpikes.