You're getting ready to leave home, and you stop and sigh. Before you open the door you take a deep breath, like someone preparing to run though mustard gas. You know what's out there. It may just be a short sprint to the car, but you're going to get hit with a wall of heat that would make Backdraft feel like The Blue Lagoon.
And once you get in the car, your lovely, lovely air conditioning is going to make you never want to get out. Religious or not, you thank God for the drive-through. Drive-through banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, ABCs and fast food make life in Florida a lot more bearable, so much so it's a wonder there's not more of them.
Well, there are a few more than you might have thought. For example, there's the Cruise-Thru Discount Beverage Mart (3320 N. Orange Blossom Trail; 407-297-4011), a drive-through convenience store where you can get most of the things you'd find at your local 7-Eleven without having to take what can be a melting trek across even a short parking lot. From Band-Aids to bag ice, from beer to Beenie Weenies, there's no need to get out of the car to get the essentials.
Until they invent those domed cities we were all promised in the year 2000, you do have to get out of the A/C to work in the yard. But not to get the things you need to make that yard beautiful. Landscape Nursery (1955 S. Apopka-Vineland Road; 407-298-1703) is a 50-acre botanical bonanza that you can drive through until you spot the flora and fauna you want. Daisies, portulocka and winding hibiscus burst with color and look incredibly healthy. It's a great lure to get you to drive through the whole place, where you can choose from palms, pines, bedding plants and even banana trees and hanging baskets.
Just stop the car when you come across what you want, load it up and check out at the door as you exit. Landscape Nursery sells only to wholesale businesses on the weekdays, but it is open to the retail-buying public on weekends, and if it won't save you from yardwork in the unforgiving heat, it will save you from traipsing around the garden shop in it.
The relentless temperatures can make anyone lose their religion, but the most unusual car-contained experience of all could make you get it back again.
On a recent breezy Sunday it was evident that if you must go to church, the Daytona Beach Drive-In Christian Church is how to do it. You could wear pajamas, have coffee, tune in the sermon on the radio -- or some Sisquo -- and still say you attended.
On entering, you stop at the hut where you would normally get your ticket to see "Invasion of the Bee Girls" but instead are given a speaker, a program and commuter communion. They provide, in those little plastic cups that to-go salsa is usually issued in, a half-inch of wine crowned with a cardboard disk. Sandwiched between that and the lid is a tiny wafer. The host stays dry, which is nice, because not everyone is a dunker.
Me and my friend Gwen got a decent space in front of an A-framed church, with a cross hanging at a jaunty angle and a balcony where minister Larry Deitch could address us like Evita.
While I was trying to find the bathroom and the confession stand (heeyuk, get it?), a request came for the names of those who need praying for and why, to be read next week. Apparently, thanks to Gwen, drivers will be praying for my clogged sink, bunchy panties, heartworms, black soul, tin ear, lip fungus, OCD, alcoholism, diaper rash, Alzheimer's and bad taste in shoes. I only have two and a half of these problems, but it's nice to be thought of.
Gwen and I are both lapsed Catholics. Well, not lapsed. What's the term for when you fling something as far away as possible? That's the kind of Catholics we are. As such, we didn't do communion because (A) it didn't feel right, (B) we don't start drinking until after noon and (C) doing shots out of plastic is tacky. While everyone else chowed on wafers and knocked back wine behind the wheel, we split a humble granola bar, which, compared to communion, is brunch at the Four Seasons.
A song on a church piano made Gwen giggle to the point of tears, which made our neighbors think she was having a religious experience. They looked straight ahead like their necks were in casts.
After the passing of the plate (which meant people coming up to the window, baskets out), the minister gave a sermon that started with his learning how to ride a bike and seemed destined to go on until everybody died. I don't want to knock it, but I feared the car might run out of freon. Soon we were flopping around in our seats like fish just introduced to the dock. It was the exact feeling of being shanghaied to Mass as children, worse for knowing that the beach was across the street.
After the long talk they played "What a Wonderful World," clearly a cue to get out in it. We were self-satisfied at having been to church, had tried it, like one might try rum every few years after a grim encounter. If one was to continue churching, the drive-in would be the only way.
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