Wheel Deal No. 1: At 3:50 a.m., I engage in battle with stubborn
gates at a gated community in Tarpon Springs, FL. The open-sesame card
fails, leaving me inside the fence and my friend's husband, and idling
car, outside. He gives up the fight. "Idiot fence," he grumbles and
drives away. He's already dropped off his wife, who later tells me she
sprinted nearly a quarter mile to another gate, where she saw another
car driving out. She slid in on its dime.
Wheel Deal No. 2: At 4:15 a.m., I file in behind another friend's car
to caravan to a hospital in Tampa, FL, where he is to have surgery. I
think Tampa and see skyscrapers. I imagine the 45-minute ride as a
blur of gas stations, fast-food eateries and stop lights. Instead, we
pass through miles and miles of wooded land. Lots of signs warn me
about deer crossings.
Wheel Deal No. 3: We arrive at the hospital shortly before 5 a.m,
and line up for the free valet parking, But the valet must still be
sleeping. So we wait, with five or six other cars. At 5 pronto, the
valet, a rastafarian-like man in blue arrives and practices his art
with perfection. WIthin seconds, he's dancing around each car,
unloading the occupants and exchanging keys for call tickets.
Wheel Deal No. 4: By 9 a.m., I return to reclaim my car and find the
man in blue is now multiple men in blue, and they all want to exchange
my call ticket for my car.
The lucky one gets twice the tip, because as I yank a dollar from my
wallet, another falls out, under the car. The blue man dives for it.
In a flash, he gets that one and the one I'm extending in my hand.
Wheel Deal No. 5: At 9:05 a.m., I slide behind my wheel and crank
the engine to discover it's already running. Can you hear the gears
grind? One of the multitude of blue men gives me the thumbs up and
says "Been there, done that."
Wheel Deal No. 6: It's 10 a.m. and I arrive back in Largo, safely.
Amazing, because I'm too tired to drive.
Wheel Deal No. 7: It's now 10 p.m., and I'm a passenger in Otto as
we wind our way north on the Gulf side of the state. We've counted
more than 20 deer.
At some point tonight, the wheel excitement will end because I'm flat-
out tired anyway.