The Flipside Of Tolerance

Are we ever going to get back that piece of Thomas Street between Southard and Fleming? You know, the block that has been overrun and blocked for years now by construction at the courthouse complex. It’s the block that used to provide access from Fort Taylor beach and Truman Annex to Fleming Street without requiring people to deal with oncoming traffic and the light by the Green Parrot. I haven’t seen the plans, so I don’t know whether the city of Key West ceded an entire downtown city block to the project, but they may as well have, considering the amount of time it’s been closed to the public, who have quietly put up with it for more than five years now. Which brings me to this week’s topic – tolerance.

Oh sure, we here in Key West are One Human Family, and we don’t care whether you sleep with men, women or both. We don’t care what you wear and overlook the fact that you’re having a beer at 9 a.m. A simple Google search of “ Key West , tolerance,” yields about what you’d expect. It shows flowery travel Web sites with alluring descriptions of an island that welcomes everyone, and has seen it all. Sure, we tolerate each other – for the most part. There are neighborhood parking wars, irresponsible dog owners and late-night domestic disturbances, and we put up with them. But I started thinking about the other things we put up with that, upon closer inspection, don’t always seem right, or in everyone’s best interest.

Take, for example, the courthouse. We’ve tolerated that construction for 12 years. The restored buildings look beautiful, but the whole thing was supposed to be finished in August 2006, almost two years ago. And in that time, we’ve given up an entire city block. We’ve also tolerated an airport with all of four long-term parking spots, and about nine short-term spots as crews work to build a new terminal. Once again, I’m sure we’ll all be thrilled with the final result, but it seems like a royal pain these days. And those are nuisances with an actual end in sight (even if it is years away.) Think of the more permanent things we tolerate on a daily basis, things that give no hint of ever going away. We tolerate Conch Trains going 5 mph, because they’re not legally allowed to stop on city streets. We tolerate cars in the bike lanes and incessant scooter horns. We tolerate a Wendy’s that doesn’t accept factory coupons, and we’ve given Higgs Beach to the homeless. We don’t even tolerate them anymore, that would imply that we live in harmony with them. No, apparently, we just hand them waterfront property and turn the other way. The mayor wants to change that, so we’ll see. There could be a light at the end of that tunnel.

We tolerate polluted beaches while the city fixes our storm water system, and Russian bread lines at Ross to buy a $12 dress. We are paying $4.09 per gallon for gas and have to use an entire tank to get to a mall – or find a parking spot in Old Town . These little (and not so little) disturbances, make us wonder at times if it’s all worth it. Is this expensive piece of pie worth the hassle? I still say yes, a thousand times yes, but we have some work to do – especially down by Thomas Street.

Mandy Bolen’s columns appear in The Key West Citizen

Mandy Bolen's award winning "Tan Lines" column appears bi-weekly in the Key West Citizen. Offering unique insights on life in the southernmost island and life in general, her wit and wisdom has been likened to that of a "female Dave Barry."