COMMENTS

Traffic circles in Venice: Just sit back and enjoy the show

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Which way they'll go, nobody knows.

The 2010 census report was in the paper last week and I was not surprised by the median age of Sarasota County at about 55, which is my peeps.

As we all know that is what makes this place the Fountain of Youth, youth is relative in this area. Anywhere else in America I am a senior citizen, but here, I'm a hot young stud! I'm a Longboat Key widow's dream. Good posture, strong gait, all my teeth and I can still drive at night, which qualifies me for waterfront property. That's how we roll in Sandtown USA.

Manatee County came in younger at about 48, which is no surprise because my peeps in Bradentucky still have jobs. Yea, they still work for a living there so they need a bit more energy. OK, OK, I know some people in Sarasota still work for a living, and for the most part they live in Bradenton or North Port if they have the gas money.

But the city that did kind of shocked me was Venice. The average age of a Florida Venetian is 68 years old. Wow, I knew it was older, but for an entire community that is freaky old. Who takes out the garbage, for God's sake? That's a life-threatening activity in Venice.

So here is the irony, last week I understand they opened the first traffic circle in Sarasota County on a main highway and they decide to put it in Venice. Really, a traffic circle on Jacaranda Blvd. in the city where Buick reigns champion and the city that natural hair color forgot and a place where the people are wonderful, down-home, sophisticated folk but can be challenged to drive in a straight line at any speed above an average jog. An active, fast moving, high-traffic circle in Venice, what are they trying to do, thin the herd?

A lady called in to the Jones and Crane radio show, which I am on most Friday mornings (107.9FM), who lived within sight of the circle. She said it was one of the most entertaining events she had ever witnessed live and in the moment. Buicks and Cadillacs would come to the entrance of the "Circle of Doom" and instead of gradually merging, flowing into the circle as it was designed, they would stop and wait. They would nudge ever so slightly towards entering like a novice skipper trying to find the right time to leap into a fast twirling jump rope.

She said once some of them entered the circle they became a traffic version of a Dali painting, abstract with some essence of reality being somewhat unpredictably predictable. Some folks did OK, some got frustrated trying to find their way out and just made their own exit over curbs and through landscaping and a few decided that it was a timepiece and go clockwise against the flow, creating great excitement and making time stand still.

If you are on a tight budget and in need of good cheap entertainment, just head down to the Venice traffic circle and pull up a lawn chair and a cooler and enjoy the show. It is much better than NASCAR. NASCAR is predictable, but this is what I would call slow-motion creative NASCAR, times four.

The powers that be should have known a traffic circle anywhere in this area on a main drag was probably not a good idea. Sure, we have a few, but they are in the middle of downtown or residential neighborhoods where the speed limit is 15 mph. And even in those situations there can be challenges. We all know the most famous roundabout is St. Armands Circle. It has been here for decades. And, we all know there are super senior drivers that unfortunately never got off St. Armands Circle. You get an 80+ driver in the inside lane on St. Armands and he or she can't figure out how to merge into the outside lane at the correct time to get off at the proper exit and about the fourth or fifth time around the circle they lose complete orientation as to where they are at all. Then the anxiety starts to build that turns to frustration which turns to anger the blood pressure goes up and BOOM, the Buick is up with the Circus Ring of Fame. Oh, I saw it not long ago, Skylark teetering on the Wallenda plaque. It was a sad day on the circle.

Some folks don't get to go back to Detroit. But if you got to go that's not a bad place to do it. It's beautiful, exotic, and makes a good story for the family.

-- Les McCurdy has been a professional standup comedian and humor training specialist since 1984 and owner-operator of McCurdy's Comedy Theatre and Humor Institute in Sarasota/Bradenton Florida since 1988 with his wife Pam and daughter Taylor.

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Last modified: May 13, 2011
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