From time to time I am asked to drive Jewish ambulances around the state of Florida for dedication ceremonies. A kind-hearted person will buy the ambulance and dedicate it to the memory of a dearly departed loved one. I drive it to the ceremony then wait for it to be over, then I drive it to the port in Jacksonville so it can be put on a ship and sent to Israel. These ambulances are fortified with bomb plating and bullet proof glass, to be prepared for whatever they may encounter in Israel.
I picked one up in Miami late yesterday, and was driving it up the Florida Turnpike up to Orlando. It was set to be on display at a big Jewish festival, and I always had fun at these events and met a lot of nice people. Some of the older ladies liked to pinch my cheek and tell me I am a sweetheart. One elderly lady gave me a hug and said "Peace in Israel." Felt nice.
Just then, my cell phone rang. “This is Bill.”
“Hello, little miss sunshine,” said the familiar voice of Riff.
“Where are you?”
“On my way to Orlando in the ambulance.”
“Slight change of plans, when you get done in Orlando I need you to take it to some special ceremony down in Ft. Myers. Can you do that, gumdrop?”
“Can you do that, cupcake?”
“Just send me the details.”
“But can you handle it, my little pussywillow?”
“Goodbye, Riff.” I hung up, and a few moments later it rang again. “Riff, I can do the job, you don’t have to—“
“Bill?” It was not Riff, but dear old Mrs. Sherman.
“Mrs. Sherman, how are you?”
“Bill, I just called to tell you that I’ll be going to that Valentine Ball I told you about next week.” And with that, she hung up. Guess she just wanted to inform me.
As I was driving past the city of Stuart, a car pulled alongside me and the passengers in that car were waving at me wildly. I tried to just keep my eyes on the road ahead and ignore them, but I finally glanced over. I saw what looked like a Palestinian flag hanging from the rear view mirror, and the four men in the car all appeared to be of Arab origin. I had no idea why they seemed so agitated, and then I wondered if it might have to do with the Hebrew writing on all sides of the ambulance and the prominent Star of David symbols. Whatever it was, these guys were seriously pissed off. Two of them were leaning out the window, screaming and waving their fists at me. Then the fists transformed into a single finger, and I just wanted to ask them “What’s the problem, fellas?”
They were on my left side, and the man in the back seat on the right side began to hurl food at me. They seemed to have a lot of uneaten fast food in the car, and he started throwing it at me. Then his friend in the seat directly in front of him began to do the same. They also balled up the fast food bags and threw them. The thing of it is, though, is that when you are traveling at a rate of 70mph, then you throw things out the window the wind grabs them and they fly behind you. Nothing they threw hit my vehicle, until one of them threw an empty beer bottle. It bounced off the side of the ambulance, and I knew I’d better start treating this as a serious threat.
I slowed down, and they did the same. I sped up, and they matched me move for move. And then their car swung at me as if they were going to sideswipe me. The first time, I thought that there was no way that they really intended to hit me. But the second time, they came so close that I had to swing out onto the shoulder of the Turnpike to keep from being hit. Just up ahead, I saw an overpass just before a curve in the highway. The sun glinted and reflected off of something, and I remembered having seen a nest of Florida Highway Patrol cars there yesterday as I drove down to Miami to pick up the ambulance. I put my foot to the floor, and the turbo charged engine kicked in and off I went. This took the gents in the other car by surprise, and they stepped on the gas hard to catch up with me. As I neared the overpass, I hit the brakes, and they zoomed past me still throwing beer bottles out the window. I saw two Highway Patrol cars jump out behind them and soon they pulled them over. As I drove slowly by, one of the men actually leaped towards the left lane of traffic that I was occupying, and an officer grabbed him and yanked him back. As I watched in my side view mirror, it seemed that the angry men were being treated as potentially hostile and dangerous by the police, and I continued my journey to Orlando in peace.
I got to thinking, how just last week I was perturbed with the speed trap in south Georgia and the officer who I felt gave me a hard time unnecessarily. Today was a very different story, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the boys in blue. I’ve often heard the phrase, “Where’s a cop when you need one?” In this case, they were right where I needed them to be, and I am so grateful for them being there. For the rest of the drive, I pondered the anger these guys had towards me simply because I was driving a Jewish ambulance. It is meant for good, it is meant to help people in need. And there surely is a lot of need for them in Israel. I said a little prayer and thanked God for watching over me and keeping me safe. And I hoped that lives might be saved by the brave men who drive these vehicles overseas.