Florida can be a shock

It’s not just moving that’s an adjustment for North Carolinians when arriving in Florida. It’s simply visiting, too.

My friend Chris recently took a vacation to Miami for a week to celebrate his graduation with his bachelor’s degree and being promoted to sergeant at the police department in Lenoir. He and I met about a year ago through my work at the News-Topic since he was the school resource officer at one of the high schools. As I was the education reporter, we ran into each other often and started a friendship. When Chris said he was in Miami, I badly wanted to see a friendly face and asked him to meet me halfway for dinner.

We decided to meet in a tiny town south of Lake Okeechobee at a diner. For both of us, the trip should have taken an hour and a half to get there. Chris’s route involved tolls so I texted him, “Make sure you bring quarters.”

“Quarters?” he said.

“You’ll hit a few tolls. They’re usually 65 cents to $1,” I replied.

“Ohh gotcha! Thanks for the reminder!”

That evening, I left my house and headed for the diner. Chris left at the same time. However, he was immediately caught in horrendous Miami traffic. He texted me that he’d be half an hour late. I told him not to worry; I always bring a book with me because I’m usually an early bird. As I continued at 65 mph down nearly empty highways, Chris was still stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Half an hour turned into 45 minutes, which turned into over an hour.

As I was approaching the town where we’d meet, Chris told me he was still stuck in Miami. I pulled over at a gas station and texted him that I was going to give him a new place to meet closer to him. However, there’s not many towns in the middle of the state, so we met at a steakhouse that was only 15 minutes closer to where he was. It was odd little town, and the steakhouse was out of nearly everything on the menu, including most of their steak cuts. I ended up sitting in the parking lot talking to my boyfriend on the phone then reading for an hour before Chris and his cousin showed up.

Poor Chris was so frustrated from the drive that he stopped at a gas station to get some headache relief medicine before coming to the steakhouse. He said that not only was the traffic bad but that he also got caught in one of Florida’s infamous thunderstorms and stuck at the toll booth.

“It said it took exact change, and all I had were dollar bills,” he said, explaining that there were people honking at him as he tried to figure out how to pay.

“I told you to bring quarters,” I answered, laughing.

“Wait, you literally meant quarters?” he asked.

Chris was also sporting a large straw hat, a very Floridian wardrobe choice, and a red, blistering nose from having too much fun in the sun without any sunscreen.

Despite the great hurdles we faced to get together, seeing each other was worth it. Chris is one of those people who will move the earth if it means the happiness of his friends and family, and I was beyond excited to see an old friend! I cannot thank him enough for braving the traffic, toll roads and thunderstorms to meet me.

Most of the people I’ve met in Arcadia have been sweet, welcoming and enjoyable to be around. It’s been two months, and I’ve made a small group of friends. In fact, I’m hosting Game Night this week! However, there’s something comforting and refreshing about sitting down with someone you’ve known for over a year and picking up right where you left off. Honestly, I’m just terrible at small talk!

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