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The turnpike mayor

Published July 06. 2013 09:04AM

We were driving on the Florida Turnpike, on our way to our grandson Colton's 5th birthday party. It was a hot and sticky Sunday morning and there seemed to be a lot of traffic for 9 a.m.

A blinking sign said "Lanes blocked after Route 27." Well, we just kept driving. Everyone else did, too. We all assumed that the turnpike bosses wouldn't let us keep driving if the road was blocked. We were wrong.

Within 5 miles of that blinking sign, traffic stopped dead. We all sat there. Nothing moved on our side of the road. The northbound side was moving at a normal rate. The cars that zipped by headed in the opposite direction seemed to say, "Glad it's not us."

After a few minutes, we tuned in to the XM radio station that told about traffic problems in our area. Sure enough, they were reporting a truck fire that had closed all southbound lanes of the turnpike. We were stuck.

I called our daughter to let her know the situation. She said that the party was scheduled to start at 11 a.m., so we had time to get there. Based on the fact that we hadn't moved one inch, I told her to go ahead with everything and we would get there when we could.

After 30 minutes of no movement, people started to get out of their cars and look down the road. My husband got out, too. I stayed inside the air-conditioned car and read my book. We were right beside a swampy area and I knew that every mosquito within a five-mile radius would find my skin the minute I left the car.

Luckily, we had filled the gas tank before we left, so there were no worries about keeping the car running. I turned off the radio and turned the air conditioner down a little to prevent the car from overheating.

Emergency vehicles kept going by us toward the accident. People had to jump out of the way and slam their doors shut as the sirens wailed. My husband took it upon himself too guide a few drivers to move their cars slightly away from the side of the road so the fire trucks and ambulances had a clear shot.

After 45 minutes, Jim came back in the car to tell me what he had seen. Apparently, a large truck was on fire about a mile down the road. No one knew if any other vehicle was involved.

Jim also told me about the people he met. A young family from Indiana - on their way to a Disney World vacation - had 6 people in a mini-van. Luckily, the three kids had electronic gadgets to entertain them. They were growing impatient at the interruption of their trip. I said a quiet prayer of thanks that we didn't have children in our car.

Another vehicle from Texas held a single lady who was on her way to southern Florida to surprise her parents with a visit. Since they didn't know she was coming, her schedule wasn't being disrupted. She was driving a beautiful light blue Infiniti SUV. I told Jim that I admired that car. He later went back to tell her that.

A family from Northern Florida was on their way to Legoland for the day. The kids in that vehicle were all over the highway. I was concerned that they would get hit by something, but their parents didn't seem worried.

A man and wife in a small car from Illinois were headed to Miami. The man asked Jim if there were many tolls left on the turnpike. Jim told him that there were tolls all the way to Miami. The man groaned and asked if they took credit cards. Jim said that he didn't think so. The guy from Illinois was anxious to get to an exit to find an ATM machine and get gas.

After about 90 minutes, the traffic started to move. All the drivers rushed back to their cars and we got going again. I said to Jim, "I'm going to call you the "Mayor of the Turnpike." He glad-handed so many people, learned their stories, kept them safe, and knew their destinations. I, on the other hand, stayed cool, unbitten, and enjoyed my novel.

As we drove past the accident, we saw that a large FedEx truck had burned. No other vehicles were involved. It looked as though something had started a fire inside the body of the truck. Wonder if it was an explosion of some kind? There were going to be some disappointed people who wouldn't get their packages.

By the way, we got to the party in time to enjoy lunch and watching all the kids swim and play.

If you would like to contact Dr. Smith, she can be reached at her e mail address: or in care of this newspaper.

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