If you visit Key West, and some one recommends public transportation, be aware that there is no “schedule.” Both of the guidebooks we read recommended the city bus system as the most economical transportation, which would provide the opportunity to see places in the city we would like to explore, and eliminate the need to find parking - a perpetual complication in Key West. On Saturday evening, we arrived in time for the famous sunset at Mallory Square, and were told by a citizen that the bus stop was just down the street, and the bus would show up when the driver got around to it. We have decided it is a “phantom” system because we never saw a city bus during the three days we were there!
Disclaimer: This experience is recounted from the perspective of two tourists who lost themselves in a not-so-good neighborhood and decided to make the best of it. It is not meant to treat unsympathetically those with addictions or mental afflictions.
We walked to the bus stop at 6:30 and recognized immediately that we were going to have free entertainment similar to Bill Cosby’s description of the “free show on the subway.” Standing about twenty feet away from the pavilion, a Haitian woman seemed to be arguing with someone on a cell phone. Two men who apparently shared a fear of soap and water were sitting on the bench, their gestures defining an argument in a creole of Spanish, English and cheap whiskey. A thin woman who may have been in her mid-thirties, with long, stringy, brownish hair, freckles, and missing her front teeth was also on the bench, waving her arms and proclaiming, “Nobody gonna disrespeck me!”
My first thought was, Is this a good idea? Second thought: I’m glad Jesse is with me! We stood some distance away from the bus stop shelter, but still within earshot of the unintelligible discussion. Jesse realized that we didn’t have change for the bus fare, so he tried to get change at the deli across the street. One of the men said, “They closed tonight …” and attempted to tell us where we should go to eat. I think he recommended a restaurant down the street because it sold “all kinds of food – Cubano, Mexicano, Americain ...”
Jesse ran back to the RV for change. Returning in a hurry, he said, “I want to get out the video camera, but I’m afraid it could cause trouble.” I wish he could have, because I can’t begin to describe it all!
The longhaired woman sauntered toward us to give us her history, opinions, and advise us about the bus schedule. “The bus will be here any time … my family used to have a lot of property in Key West, but my husband had to be a drug dealer, and we lost everything … now I have to live on” [multiplied increase in volume] “f*****g Stock Island!” Then she walked into the street and back to the pavilion.
A small, thin, person of indefinite gender, with a very short haircut, an unbuttoned shirt, and a bra staggered toward us from the street corner. I will call the person She. She muttered a lot, but we had no idea what was being said because she was not lucid. She seemed to be sympathetic towards the long-haired woman, and possibly trying to prevent a fight.
The next character was a woman who rode past on a bicycle. The long-haired woman jumped from the bench and ran into the street to berate her for riding past, and that she was going to get an “ass-whoopin’.” The cyclist called the long-haired woman a “meth ho” and rode on past. “Meth Ho” chased her unsteadily down the street yelling, “Nobody loves you! At least my mama loves me and fixed up her garage for me to sleep in! You’re just a *&#@* TV dinner ho!”
Jesse and I now quietly discussed the possibility that we might need a taxi. The woman on the bicycle was returning and the long-haired woman ran back into the street shouting epithets. The TV Dinner Ho turned down a side street to take a safer route, but the Meth Ho ran across to catch up with her in an alley, and did not return.
Fortunately, a taxi arrived and Jesse waved him down. We made it to the pier just in time for the sunset, and that was the most beautiful sunset of our visit, so I’m glad we didn't take the Spirit Bus.
One more transportation note: taxis are expensive. It cost about $20 to go five miles. Parking for more than two hours may cost about the same. Our best decision was to drive the RV to Fort Zachary Taylor, pay the $6 to visit the fort/park, and ride our bicycles to tour the city. The fort is interesting to see, and it has a very nice beach!
So that’s the story of our first evening in Key West. Stay tuned for more!