Wednesday, July 20

Tag em and Bag em, Jacksonville

Moving to Florida, I noticed that more abandoned cars littered the roadway than other places I'd lived. At first, I assumed this was a result of more tourism, more poverty, or hotter weather. However, after living here for several years, I've come to the conclusion that we've got more abandoned cars because of policy as much as any other factor, and that policy should probably be updated.

I drive the same route every day, just like many of us who commute to work. I've noticed that the same abandoned vehicle sits at the side of the highway for several days, especially if it's just parked and not in obvious distress. However, these parked vehicles represent a major crash hazard if someone needs to swerve into the shoulder. I've even seen some abandoned vehicles on I-95 that didn't fit on the tiny shoulders and ended up in the traffic lane. I've seen plenty of vehicles right at on-ramps or off-ramps, too.

 The policy seems to be to give these vehicles at least two days to be moved before they are towed away, but I'd say that they ought to be removed immediately if there's any chance an accident could be caused. And there's always that chance. The policy should be to give an abandoned vehicles owner until the next rush hour to move it or lose it. If your car breaks down at 7am, then it's got to be gone by 2pm. Or make it a blanket six hours from the time it's tagged.

Even the actual tagging of abandoned vehicles is pretty poorly done around here. Most vehicles that are well off the road or have been in an obvious accident receive an orange tag. A tag lets the rest of us drivers know the situation has been acknowledged by the authorities and we don't need to stop to help out. Every abandoned vehicle should be tagged as a courtesy to those of us who wish to be good Samaritans if needed. When I was in St Johns County on a recent weekend evening, I came across a vehicle that had run off of Highway 1 in the fog. I circled back in order to check it out (parking and exiting my own car in the fog), but no one was in the car. I later called to police department only to find out it was a known abandoned vehicle. That means I endangered myself and other drivers in the fog in order to attempt to help someone who was long gone. Yes, I could have called the sheriff from a safe location a mile away before investigating, but if someone had been injured behind the wheel, it made more sense to stop to see. And I probably wasn't the only passerby to check out the crash scene that had not been tagged to let us know there was nothing to be done. But if I was the only one who stopped, that's kind of sad and scary for those of us who might someday need someone's help. Moving cars as soon as possible, or at least tagging them, makes a lot more sense than what seems to be the current practice in Northeast Florida.

Gas Station T-shirts in Ocala, FL

My son and I had been in Ocala for a track meet, so we decided to eat downtown after the sporting event. We enjoyed the the restaurant and the art walk that was happening, but we eventually had to start the long qdrive back to Jacksonville. I used my GetUpside app to find a Shell station where I could get gas and some caffeine for the ride home. As we made a U-turn to get to our destination, we noticed a weirdly-busy Italian ice shop (Jeremiah's), but that was just the beginning of our trek into the Central Florida Twilight Zone.

The Hi Way Express gas station had seen better days. Initially, I tried the west side of the property to get gas, but those pumps had been cemented over, so I had to back in to an available pump. Since I had a 2+ hour drive, I decided to get some liquid energy after refueling the vehicle. My son was almost asleep already, so I locked him in the back seat, stressing that he honk the horn if anyone got too close. 

I entered the convenience store, and I wasn't really impressed by any particular element. It was small, and it had a small selection of drinks. I didn't even notice that some inventory went nearly up to the ceiling. I got in line behind some women looking for a specific ice cream flavor. This was humorous because no one should expect more than vanilla or chocolate at a gas station and because the frozen ice place next door probably had whatever flavor they needed. They wanted strawberry or key lime. Weird. But they were also seemingly buying their week's groceries at a gas station, so it almost makes sense.

Before I could make my purchase, another patron asked where the t-shirts were. The cashier pointed to the back wall and gestured up. He was right. T-shirts in square plastic bags all along the back wall. Black or white. The other patron, now seeing the shirts that I too had not seen earlier, began browsing. However, it didn't take him too long before he cut back in front of me to ask if they had brown t-shirts. The cashier responded that they only had black or white. No colors, including brown. Disappointed, the patron asserted that if the Hi Way Express carried brown shirts, people would buy them. At this point, the man went back to shirt shopping, leaving me to finally complete my purchase.

I couldnt help but ask the cashier why the Hi Way Express in Ocala sold t-shirts. The answer? "Because people buy them." I couldn't argue with that logic, especially while considering the other shopper currently in the store with me. I just had to wonder whether this gas-station-t-shirt-phenomenon was unique to this establishment, Ocala, or Central Florida. I've gone into lots of gas stations in Jacksonville without ever seeing anything similar. However, I have seen some Jaguars shirts and Duval Light shirts at a couple of places. Maybe plain t-shirts are sold in parts of Jacksonville where I don't tend to exit my vehicle. 

Yes, people in Ocala buy t-shirts at gas stations, but why? Does it have to do with the horse farms in the area? Maybe ranch hands use up shirts rather quickly in the Florida heat. Or lots of locals enjoy late-night tie-dyeing or silk-screening? Is the James Dean / Fonzy look? Does it have something to do with meth? And most importantly, would brown really sell as well as black or white?

If you accidentally find yourself in Ocala, buy a t-shirt at a gas station and send a photo to me. I'll try to remember to do the same next time I visit that part of the state, or if I happen to find t-shirts at a local dive gas station.

I met a guy who used to live in Ocala, and while he couldn't confirm the existence of t-shirts at various gas stations, he did tell me that in his current state of North Carolina in similar neighborhoods people buy these t-shirts to wear until they get too dirty and then toss the shirts out instead of washing them. While it's hard to believe this waste, he seemed fairly confident in the explanation. Honestly, I hope even homeless folks wash these shirts and dry then on a park bench, even without soap.

Cambridge AICE High School Exchange Program

My family was sold on Cambridge AICE for our high school choice. It's similar to AP or IB in that you can earn college credit, but it's good for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship as well. It seemed like a win-win. However, with a program (or programme for the Brits) that's used at 10,000 high schools in 160 countries, I'm surprised that there isn't an established student exchange option. I also don't think it would be too difficult to initiate.

If schools are all teaching to similar standards, then students can transfer between those schools without skipping a beat. That's kind of the point when it comes to any national standards we have. We assume that a 10th grade English, chemistry, or trigonometry class hits all the same marks. AICE requires similar standards at all of its partner schools, which means that the main challenge of a semester exchange would fall with non-AICE classes. I know it might mess up some student GPA dreams, but non-AICE classes would just have to apply to general electives. Stuff like art or gym. Maybe a study hall.

I'm not sure about AICE semester vs full-year classes, but I'd think second semester would work best for an exchange: students would have a semester with their home-area teacher and then get additional guidance from an exchange teacher, having access to resources from both instructors for what should be a very similar test. 

It's likely schools participating in the exchange could be privy to the differences in expectations and adjust to the class that's being taught and students involved. Even if it's only a few schools that offer this, it should work. For example, Fletcher High School in Jacksonville could prepare AICE teachers to teach Americans and British kids, (allowing some Brits to get a little sun and beach time in their lives). 

I guess I'm disappointed that an AICE exchange program was never really a thing, leaving Amity and other programs to do whatever they do. Honestly, even if it was just a two-week exchange, I'd still be happy to have my kids participate. But since the idea wasn't really a part of the AICE philosophy from the start, it's probably not going to happen, unless enough AICE parents and students read and share this post and call for some kind of in-person exchange. It's really kind of the point of an international curriculum.

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