As enticing as a vividly coloured firm and perfectly round Florida orange, the jumbo shrimps hung clustered around the cocktail glass. Both disappoint when required to taste like they look. The Shrimps probably had provenance in some turgid pond of steroids in a nearby third world slaveyard.
The grinning server had an air of desperation as he locked in his 15% tip (after ‘gratuity’ automatically added to the bill).
Welcome to Orlando where a maxi taxi for 8 people from The Peabody to the Blue Fin Seafood Restaurant costs $11 ($17 after tip) total, while the black car that the door clown proffers instead of a taxi is $30 ($40) on the way back.
Yet a crew of eight toil under the late sun to get a massive taxi queue moving outside The Peabody Hotel, efficiency at its best compared to the crazy taxi system at the airport where an old guy with a toupee signals two cabs at a time to come and angle park while he dithers around dispatching desperate people.
A compulsory taxi ride to WalWart stocks up breakfast supplies, required since even the best hotel room has no coffee or tea making facilities and everyone knows negotiating tea when hung over is a nightmare.
“Hello. May I please have a cup of boiling water, and an English Breakfast Tea or the best tea bag you have, with some whole milk on the side?”
I get a tall silver jug plonked down with lukewarm something inside and a smaller jog containing frothy warm skim milk.
“What is this?”
“Tea, sir”, says the thankfully communicative server when I chase him half way back to the dispatch hatch.
At least he didn’t give me marching orders like the frumpy dumpy front of house cow in New York, who told me that the water in the jug was as hot as it gets. The big thermos jug, that sits alongside one marked ‘coffee’ and one that says ‘Decaf’.
“Could you please grab me a hot jug of water?”
“That one is hot”.
“The one you can get me will be hotter”
“The water comes from the same place”.
“Look, it’s just that tea works best when activated with boiling water”, I plead.
She looks away, at the next harvest of tips assembling at the sign.
“Tea is something that some people, especially from Australia or England, appreciate served a certain way”, I state too firmly.
“You’re not in England, this is America”, she says.
Where New York is hope and a resilient multicultural melting pot with history and colour, Orlando is the Gold Coast of strip malls and fake facades.
People cling to legitimate jobs paying badly because they have health insurance, while illegals toil the soil and clean their houses. Thin or none existent consumer laws let corporations lie and cheat their way through fine print so obnoxious that fantastic people flip out and go postal. My friend Gerry Georgettis was so incensed at the rip-off in the paperwork for his new Ford in Miami Fort Dale that he torched the dealership in Miami before tragically taking his own life.
If it weren’t for the colossal Infocomm convention I wouldn’t be here, spewed from a Delta Airlines flight where they throw a bag of pretzels at you before demanding to know if you want a Coke or a Sprite. The DC9 (yes they still have them) screams and rattles.
There are many great things in America, where people are almost all friendly and sweet. But Australia beckons us back with clean air, ground water you can drink and a system that protects and heals us if we trip over. We have much to be thankful for.