When I first moved here – I was thrilled to be a permanent citizen. Each new experience was exciting; like my first visit to the Fish Bowl Laundromat., I had to use the Fish Bowl because during the first month of this new job I stayed in the Resort until a rental house became available. I didn’t care, it was fun. It was a little startling though to learn how expensive laundry service was. Freshwater here is like liquid gold. The Fish Bowl wash loads cost 5.00, and the dryers were only slightly less.. I was appalled and jammed everything into one load on cold setting, colors, and whites. I did not want my salary chewed up on washing, everything else was so expensive here, After a few trips to the laundromat, I accidentally noticed that one washer would start automatically, without any coins inserted. I dutifully tried to report this to the attendant, both in English and in Spanish. He seemed to either already know or not care. After that, all my washes were free, as I was careful to use the special machine. On one trip to the laundromat, a woman washing next to me looked completely disheveled and barefoot, I found it slightly offputting, but again thought “Well, it is The Keys, get used to it.” I had just folded a newly cleaned sundress, only worn once. Since I didn’t like the color it was destined for the Salvation Army. I briefly considered offering it to the women, then decided not to. Sometimes people take things like that the wrong way. It certainly looked like she could have used it more than I could, but I did not want to offend. I idly watched as she walked out to the parking lot and then, climbed into a new model Jaguar. It was at that moment that I realized tourists, snowbirds, and locals alike have a weird preference for dressing as though they were “Keys Rats”. I still don’t understand. it. I stood in line at Kmarts once behind a local musician named “Comet”, He always looked cash poor, I would carefully contribute to the Tip Jar whenever I saw him entertaining at a local Bar.s.That day he was buying a pair of cheap fishing shorts. I can not even imagine what my expression must have been when he pulled out a Platinum Amex to pay. The why of it all still confuses me. What does it mean? Maybe it’s lucrative to play at being poor/destitute. Does it make them feel like one of the “regular people” to behave that way? All I can say is I never gave the dude a tip again, I figured he could better afford to tip me for listening, and yes, I would have accepted his Platinum Amex with Square on my iPhone.
After a couple of trips to the Fish Bowl, I was befriended and taken under the wing of a nice member of the Executive Staff I met in the office. She kindly took a liking to me and we became BFFs. Welcoming by nature, she frequently adopted new friends. I was quickly sucked into the vortex of her existence, it was fun. This involved: dinners out, trips to the Flea Market, Nursery, Grocery Store, invitations to pool parties, and shopping. After we became well acquainted, she trusted me to do things around her home while she made business trips This included: caring for her puppy doggie, checking on her lawn watering, and feeding the fish in her Coy Pond. She even graciously allowed me to use her washer and dryer to save me trips to the Fish Bowl. Playing in someone’s private pool while waiting for the dryer cycle to complete was a definite bonus. It was easy for me to cut through yards to get from her place back to the Resort on my bicycle. One evening, after dark, I began heading back. Walking my bicycle, basket loaded with clean clothing, I took the shortcut through familiar territory. I started hearing a rustling sound close by. It was loud like something was creeping up on me. I read once that if a true professional attack dog came for you will not bark or growl, it will just lunge, This thing sounded loud and lunging. Stiffening a scream and believing something or someone was after me I ran. Pushing my bike, loaded with clean laundry, I ran as fast as I could in a pair of Crocks. I knew it was a high-end neighborhood or Odessa would never live there. I was still scared stupid and went with my instincts. The next morning I braved going back for my missing shoe and to check for the possibility of lost clothes. No dogs. There was, however, a large circular chicken wire cage containing a huge Land Tortoise. As I approached it lunged toward me creating the same sounds as the night previous. It wanted food. It appeared to think someone was coming to give it lettuce and carrots – debris of which were lying around. I would have thrown it mango or cumquats from nearby trees to eat, but it had not had my lost “Croc” in its mouth. “Yeah, digest that!” I jeered thinking I had been all scared for nothing. Anyway who in their right mind keeps a Land Tortoise as a pet? They can live for a hundred years or more. What do you do with them when you die, leave them to someone in your Will to care for? I later learned the creature’s name was Remus, After hearing Remus’ story – it all made perfect sense why he lived here and what would happen to him in the future. Only in The Keys though…..
P.S. I did receive a slight reprimand from Remus’ caretaker, “It’s not good for him to eat rubber!” “No shit, really? Like I gave it to him.” I thought. All I could think after that was – it was a good thing I wasn’t missing laundry. Believing that wouldn’t have been very good for Remus either.