Saturday, December 18, 2010

7 years in Miami: A retrospect

This afternoon, El Hombre and I were driving to our favorite Argentine bakery for some empanadas, when it hit me. It's been almost seven years since I moved to Miami. It's strange because it seems like a long time ago, but at the same time, sometimes it seems like it was only two or three years ago.

From the moment I moved here, things were different. From having a homeless guy try to open my windows in my old apartment (subsequently, I moved out as fast as possible), being laid off a month and a half after moving here, getting my second degree black belt and getting a masters degree, I have gone through a lot. Miami is tough, and South Beach is tougher. I lived on the beach for three years, and often held two - three jobs just to get by. This included waiting tables at Nikki Beach (I quickly learned that I hate waiting tables and am terrible at it), retail management (it's easier to upsell when you are waiting on drunk people who just rolled off Ocean Drive) and hospitality of sorts.

Anyways, I thought I would share some of the things I have learned since I moved here:
- It's ok to buy your produce off the back of a truck. It's cheaper and better than the grocery
- Finding parking on South Beach is a nightmare. Finding parking on the Gables campus of UM on a Tuesday or Thursday is even worse
- Yes you will probably be towed
- No you don't have to pay the meters on Sunday in Coral Gables
- Everyone in Miami drives by the rules of the country from which they originate
- After a light turns red, AT LEAST 4 cars are allowed to turn left
- People in Miami may be rude, but people in Boca Raton are worse
- Learning Spanish is important, but every so often it's better to feign ignorance in a conversation
- The La Carreta on Bird Road can withstand anything, including fire
- If anything happens in Cuba, or a new "Fidel is dead" rumor catches, it will be on the front page of the Miami Herald and there will be crowds of people outside the aforementioned La Carreta and Versailles
- Homestead has the best produce AND the best Farmer's Market
- If you tell someone you don't speak Spanish, be prepared for a lecture
- Channel 7 will always lead with American Idol, no matter what else is happening around the world
- There are random chickens and peacocks all over the city
- Coffee is cheaper and better at Cuban bakeries
- If you talk about the lack of hills in Miami, there will always be that one person who references the hill at Tropical Park
- Santa's Enchanted Forest is a nightmare and an eyesore. It looks like the Christmas Faerie vomited her hangover all over Tropical Park
- Seeing Miami via boat is a whole different experience
- Fairchild is amazing, but so are the Pinecrest Gardens and not as many people know about them
- Vizcaya is super cool to boat up to. You can never really get the full appreciation for it until you see all angles.
- There are good people in Miami, but you probably won't meet them in South Beach clubs
- South Beach clubs are extremely overrated and after awhile you get tired of going places where a beer is $15 and you have to wear shoes that make you want to cut your feet off. When that happens, you will migrate to downtown and Brickell
- People in Coral Gables are surprisingly nice and shop owners welcome your business
- You will never get good service in South Beach. It's not even worth complaining about anymore.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Worst Valet Ever

So normally I don't valet my car. It's not just that I don't feel high roller enough, it's also that I used to work for a rental car company on the beach and I knew alot of valet guys. I saw it all - kids crashing $50k cars, stealing things out of cars, joyriding, etc. Normally I would rather shell out the money for a garage and keep my keys in my pocket. But yesterday El Hombre and I were up at Riverfront for my company holiday party, the company is reimbursing me for valet, and I don't know that area at all, so I figured, "What the hell? How bad can it be?"

Well, after waiting over an hour for the car yesterday, I found out. Ameripark Valet Services, as it turns out, is the worst valet company in the world. Nobody was running the booth, because apparently the company is too cheap to hire more than 3 guys to work a Saturday night during season and the same night as the boat parade. Smart. So there was nobody running the booth. This resulted in the following: People who showed up 30 minutes after me getting their cars before me, nobody knowing where my car keys were and an extremely angry crowd. Normally I am patient, but when I am the only person being nice to the valet guy, and he explodes at me that everyone else came first, I lost it. Magically my car appeared after I made an extremely angry call to the corporate center and then accused the guys of either crashing my car in the parking lot or taking it for a joyride.

So my advice? Avoid this parking company at all costs. They are poorly run, overpriced, poorly staffed and have worse customer service than any company, restaurant or store on South Beach. And that's saying a lot.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn Rambles

Just in case you were wondering, this is the both the best and worst time of the year to be in South Florida for me. Why the contradiction? Well, the weather is amazing, especially in the mornings. It's a crisp warmness, if that makes sense. Every day this past week, I have walked out the door to a 70 degree morning, light on humidity. It's a blessed reprieve from summer's blistering heat. We leave the windows open and the cats luxuriate in the breeze, lazy and calm and content to be outside. Hanging outside at night is amazing, and we can kick back with a cool glass of wine in our yard and be totally comfortable with the darkness creeping in, just a little earlier every day.

But (you knew it was coming) fall is really a cop-out down here. I'm a Carolina girl and fall is my favorite season. I miss the crisp cool days, with barely-warm afternoons. I miss the trees turning colors, the crunch of leaves underfoot and the smells of grills on a crisp evening. I love the beautiful fall colors, bright and warm on sweaters and wool, but there's no way I can justify wearing something that warm down here.

I was telling El Hombre that we have to get a pumpkin and carve it so we can toast the seeds. He seemed ok with the idea, but reminded me that the pumpkin will last no more than a few days. We grew up doing that, but it seems no one down here has had toasted pumpkin seeds. That's a fall necessity! Just like hot teas (which, admittedly, I drink year-round) and hearty soups and stews (something else that's year-round for me.)

So yeah, South Florida, I love you, but I wish you could pull together an awesome, authentic fall for me!

Monday, October 4, 2010

October is a good month for Zombies

It's been FOREVER since I've written and had good material to share with you on our bloggy blog, but this past weekend got me re-inspired to dedicate time to the blog. The second annual Zombie Walk was held on Lincoln Road Saturday night. It was fun, bloody, zombie-like, mass chaos (somewhat), and exciting. I'll post some photos and video from my zombie friends soon! The stains from the "blood" can still be found around Lincoln Road and in various parking garages. I also have a friend who made an awesome short film about it. I'll be sure to post a link to that too.


- L

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It was a grove kind of morning...

So, this is my first post back from Spain. Word of advice - NEVER fly back into the country and then go to work the next day. Not a good feeling. But anyway. So yesterday we get up and it's just a relaxed kind of morning when El Hombre turns to me and says, "are you interested in checking out the grove farmer's market?" Of course I did! So off we went.

We have always seen the Coconut Grove Farmer's Market off the side of the Grand, but never stopped for some reason. This has been a mistake. The market is an open-air market on Grand Ave, open Saturdays from 11-7 p.m. and it's an all-organic farmers market. And it's wonderful. I unfortunately don't have pictures to share, because I haven't taken off my Spain pics from the camera, but suffice to say, this market has everything from spices to fruit pie. I was enthralled to find multiple types of squash (I really need to make a batch of butternut squash soup soon), alongside beautiful tomatoes, eggplant and greens. Wandering around the fruits, I found all the regulars, along with figs (which intrigue me because I have never attempted to make anything from them) and then dried fruits, including Goji Berries (interesting.)

Wandering away from the produce, we browsed among the venders, selling juices, plants, clothes, hot foods and more.

We ended up grabbing a fruit salad, which included papaya, mango, pineapple, blueberries, strawberries and kiwi and a strawberry lemonade for breakfast, and then each had organic vegan ice cream. El Hombre stuck with chocolate mousse, and I mixed my chocolate with pistachio.

Overall, it's a well-visited, well-established farmer's market with great selection and I highly recommend checking it out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

L.A. Fitness - worst gym in the world

So, I don't know if any of you are aware of this, but LA Fitness is TRULY the worst place in the world. I've been working out here for a few months now, ONLY because my job pays for my membership and it's 2 minutes from my office, and of all the gyms I have ever been a member of, this one is the worst.

Why is this? Well, the service is horrendous. The gym is staffed with snooty people who are trying to force a sale down your throat, or total morons. Or sometimes both, which is the worst. Example, I had someone there mock the weights I was using. Apparently he didn't think that I would need light weights to rehab an injury. Another example, little kids were running around the locker rooms and playing on the gym equipment today. Nobody thought, "Wow, if that kid falls and hurts himself, or runs into someone with weights, we may have a liability case on our hands." Instead they ignore it because that would require working. And these are 5 year olds I'm talking about. According to the LA Fitness policy, kids under 14 have to stay in the kids club area. Great job guys.

Another reason why this gym is deplorable? The equipment is never cleaned, half the things are broken (including every clock, water fountains and the AC half the time.. which is amazing since the facility was built a year ago) and the weights are never re-racked. Things are left astrew. Is this their fault? Well, I never saw equipment so gross at the UM Wellness Center, Ironworks OR Golds. So yes.

So if you are shopping around, don't choose this gym. If any other gym opens up with the same rates around my office, I'm canceling this membership. Because yeah, LA Fitness, I hate you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Miami Heat!

So if you don't know that Lebron James has joined the Miami Heat right now then you must be living under a rock. Seriously. This is not a post about the heat, or about Lebron James (though I think his major endorsement of Boys & Girls Club is friggin fantastic.) This is my, "Where I was when I heard about Lebron James" post.

Tonight I went to celebrate a friends birthday at an Irish bar downtown. Of course every television at the place was tuned into ESPN, and despite our celebrations, the main topic of conversation was, "where do you think he will go?" Rumors were flying, "He's booked a whole group of cabanas at the fontainbleu," and "I heard the Heat pulled all their 'welcome to Miami' ads."

Everyone was riveted to the television screens. The tension and excitement was sparking like firecrackers all across the bar. Every time Miami was mentioned on ESPN, people started screaming, and every time any other team was mentioned, Boos echoed across the room. Finally, at 9:20 the interview with Lebron started, and the noise dropped to a nervous low chatter. When he said he will be joining us in South Beach the bar exploded. The few people in their chairs flew to their feet, everyone was screaming, at first an incomprehensible noise that quickly turned to the "LET'S GO HEAT" chant. I never thought I would see people hugging perfect strangers before, but it was happening left and right. I just wish I had my camera out to video it all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Key West Discovery

One of the benefits of having friends in Key West is that we get to visit rather frequently and it doesn't get too expensive. Another benefit is, every time we go, we end up trying something new.

This time, El Hombre and I shucked our bikes for a bit and borrowed a scooter. I generally don't cruise Duval because it's overcrowded and overdone. Instead, we like to scope out side streets and all the cool stuff they have. This past weekend, we shot down to Green Street, which is right on the marina near the charter boats and a bunch of bars. We like that part of town because it's a little more local and there's a bunch of different things going on. This time we walked just to find some relief from the heat when we stumbled on an amazing discovery: the Key West Ice Cream Factory.

Now, typically I don't like ice cream. It's just too heavy and I hate eating heavy foods in the summer. But they offered air conditioning and an amazing smell. As El Hombre was ordering a soda, I discovered something I had to try, key lime sorbet. It's everything you need on a hot day, it's crisp, with a sweet, tangy, almost sharp flavor that instantly cools you off. And you have to try it with a waffle cone, which they make fresh in the store, it's an explosion of amazing in your mouth. And it's sorbet so it's light, and doesn't leave you feeling heavy and bloated afterwards. Plus you can sit inside and watch the boats, and people stumbling from bar-to-bar, which is entertaining all in itself.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Car Talk

For the past month my posting has been light because I have been busy car shopping. Throughout this process, I have received alot of advice regarding where to go, when to go, what to do, who to talk to, etc. All in all, buying a car is a bloody mission. But I did notice some marked differences between shopping for cars here and North Carolina - for one, as soon as you get out of the car in NC, there are sales people on you. I don't know if it's the heat, or the lack of customers, but when we would drive up and get out of the car, we could walk around the lot, look at cars, and then have to look for a sales person - typically someone who is very un-energetic. Strange. It's like they don't WANT to make money.

So anyways, a friend of mine advised me to buy a car in Broward County because they are nicer. It's true, the customer service is better, but they are definitely still willing to rip you off. When I finally bought my (awesomely awesome) new car, the financing guy was trying to shove an extended warranty with maintenance down my throat. (The line, "I know you have to pitch this to me, but I don't want it so let's move on" seemed to surprise him.) However, if you are buying a car, Broward County has the lowest legal sales tax rate you can get in Florida, so that can save you money.

BUT, in the end, I got my car. It's awesome. It's orange, and hopefully it will lead me on many more awesome blog-worthy adventures!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some ramblings: The New Zoo: Miami Zoo, Summer and the Situation

I heard today that the MetroZoo has changed its name to Miami Zoo. On another note, it's really hot outside. And it's not even summer yet in South Florida!!!

I also had the (un?)fortunate opportunity this morning to hear part of The Situation's (from Miami's recently departed Jersey Shore crew) new hip hop song. And guess what it's called.....The Situation. He even had the nerve to release it on iTunes. Please tell me that no one out there will actually buy this?!?!

- L -

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Key West and oil?

This past weekend, El Hombre and I took off for the Florida Keys to celebrate Memorial Day with friends. Because I had sold my weekends to my dance studio in preparation for our performance at Spirit of the Tribes, I haven't been able to escape to the beach, much less the keys.

Before I left, several people mentioned I might see oil. Being a news junky, I haven't seen anything about oil in the keys, except for a few tar balls which weren't even connected to the oil spill (more likely they were related to ships bilging and hoping to blame the remnants on said spill.)

Our trip was amazing. Other than traffic, we did nothing but eat, boat, swim and bike. There was no oil. Absolutely none. Just crystal clear beautiful water, perfect for boating. Hopefully it stays that way. Hopefully BP figures out how to hell to stop this flow and clean up their mess. But for now, if you have plans to enjoy the keys, I promise you it's still safe and the waters are still clean.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona Immigration Bill

I have to say, when I first heard about this immigration law from Arizona, I actually thought it was a joke. I mean, come on, what kind of state would pass such a law that practically legalizes racial profiling (then, upon recollection of our history, I realized how naive that sounded.)

After a lengthy discussion with my dad, I elected to read the damned thing. Afterall, I don't trust any of these crap pundits on TV, who spin things for their own purposes, and everyone is so enraged that I thought it best to determine what the bill says on my own.

ummm, so what if that person is actually a legal citizen? Are we throwing all our rights to the wind? This screams "police state."


Isn't this the job of the federal government to be gathering and determining this information? Can states usurp government roles? I mean, federal departments were created for a reason, and if I have to pay for them from my taxes, I would prefer if we don't create a clusterfuck of red tape between state and federal bureaucracy. Just sayin'....

Then as you read further, there's alot of information about human trafficking. Which I am all about squashing, but that's such a seedy, underground practice. There's also alot of talk of punishing employers who knowingly employ illegal aliens. This is also not such a big deal to me, especially as licenses and permits are handed out more often on the state level than the national level.

Another big thing that comes out of this legislation is this: Illegal aliens will be fined for being in this country, and these fines will go towards Arizona's anti-gang enforcement. Now, this is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, I see why they need to raise this money, and how they will use it to benefit their community. However, immigration should be handled by the federal government in order to ensure fair and standard interpretation of federally-mandated laws. So why should one state profit off of illegal aliens. Especially considering that many people escaping to our country are poor, without work, and probably can't afford these fines? So essentially Arizona is taking on the cost of imprisoning and jailing people, many of whom probably will never be able to pay those fines, and then handing them over to the government. There's something so disjointed about that.

Needless to say, I was contemplating a trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon next year. I'm not of Hispanic origin, but El Hombre is. And honestly, even the hint of worrying that someone might harass him for proof of residency because he "looks Hispanic" is enough to look to other national parks and monuments I also want to see.

I understand that border violence and drug wars are a very serious issue in that part of the country. But this bill seems to have been voted in on campaign politics and emotions. And that's sad to me, that politics and legislature is being created to account for that.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Miami Live Music

One of my favorite things about Miami is the music scene. There are so many local bands with so much talent, and they are always so much fun to see. One such band that I often go out to see is Suenalo. I met several of my friends out on Saturday at Transit Lounge, where Suenalo played. As always, they packed the house and put on two kickin' sets.

One of this things I always like about Suenalo is their diversity of sound. They have afro-latin, funk, 70s, rock, hip hop influences, and they blend it well. I also like that they can jam out without it getting stale, and their energy is always really positive. If you've had a tough week check out this band, they will have you jumping, twisting, dancing and shaking to an awesomely-layered groove. From the guy who throws down on conchs, the horns, the chick with a really throaty, awesome R&B voice and the lead guy throwing down some hip hop over it all, you couldn't ask for more fun.

However, if you think you can go see them and be home before 2 a.m., then you either skip the second set, or you are lying to yourself. Like many other bands in Miami, they don't take the stage before 12 at the earliest, and usually its closer to 12:30ish.

Friday, April 23, 2010

State Farm to the rescue

Hello bloggerverse, it's been awhile! One reason why I haven't posted recently is because El Hombre and I took a jaunt across the country to San Francisco (which, in case you were wondering, is a fantastic place.) But this entry isn't about San Francisco, it's about my experience trying to get to the airport.

You see, last Tuesday we flew out, but since we were flying at night, I got to work super early, forwent my lunch break and left early so I could make it home before going to the airport. And of all days, my tire blew out 2 exits after I got onto the interstate. Which really sucks because I work in Boca. So I managed to get my car to the Pompano Beach Service Station, where I see there's no saving the tire. So I calmly walked inside the gas station and asked the attendant for help, and he gave me the number for the State Farm Road Rangers. As I was talking to the guy, I started to get slightly... frazzled. I think my exact words were, "My tire blew out, I'm in Pompano Beach, I have to be at MIA by 6 p.m. (it was 4 at this point) and I can't get my spare out because the holder is stuck."

I have to hand it to the guy on the phone, he got someone out there and calmed me down, all in about 10 minutes. Once the Road Ranger guy drove up, he had my tire changed, and air put into the spare in about 5 minutes. Amazing. No one ever wants to break down, and especially not when they are trying to get to an airport two counties away in the course of an hour. So THANK YOU State Farm Road Rangers. You're the best and you guys saved my trip!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cool Concert Friday Night to help Chile this Friday!

Hey everybody!

There's a cool concert happening at Bongo's in the AAA this Friday night at 8:00. It's a fundraising event to benefit Chile post earthquake. The website for the event is Please check it out - it should be a fun time!

- L

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shout Out

I have never professed to being a great writer. Sure, I am proficient, but certainly not great. But I am a great reader. I read voraciously, I literally consume books... I have to really because a good story will consume me otherwise. I will pine all day when I want to get back to my book.

Every day I read blogs, newspapers, marketing materials. Pretty much every day I have my coffee and check my feeds. On days when I wake up late, I head straight for SFDB to catch local news and blogs. A few weeks ago, Rick picked up a story published by Jane Doe at Miami Beach 411 about her relationship with addiction.

That story was one of a three part series, and it grabbed me for several reasons. Firstly, it's well written, it's highly personal without being disengaging. Secondly, while I have never personally battled with addiction, I have been close to several people who have. It's scary. It's all consuming. And this story expresses that. You have to read through all three chapters of the story, and I certainly will not recap it, because it's not my story to tell, but I will say this: Often, it's difficult for people to separate themselves enough from addiction to be able to clearly tell a story about it's destructive forces. I think Jane came as close as they come, especially with as recent as some of these incidents seem to be in her life.

I also think it's a very brave thing to write this story and then give it away to the world. Even as an anonymous author, it's something that has to be revisited. Additionally, I find it commendable that MB411 posted the story. As a travel website, they know very well how people perceive Miami Beach - as a fun party place where everyone is sexy, everyone does drugs, and that's "cool." To publish a story, three in fact, that portrays hard-core drug use as a truly destructive force is pretty amazing.

So kudos to you Jane. I know you will stay strong, I know good things are coming for you.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Share a little sunshine

As I was on my way to work this week, I lost patience with my iPod, and elected to switch on NPR instead. And I was making my hour commute (one way), this story came on, which incensed me to no end. Was it because it was early and I was driving an hour (on a good day) to work? No, it's because this story further pointed out what idiots are running our state.

On Tuesday, NPR was reporting on Charlie Crist's new idea for job growth. Does it involve investing in our state to make it more appealing? No. Does it involve a new set of tax incentives that would lure businesses to relocate or open up shop down here? No. Apparently Crist, and all his people up in Tallahassee sat down and said, "Gee, we are in a bad state here. higher than average unemployment and underwater houses in parts of the state, people leaving for more stable places with lower property tax, and tourism is slumping because there's been a recession that's making people stay home. What do we do? I know! Lets invite our friends!"

What came out of this powwow is Share a Little Sunshine. My long-time readers know why this pisses me off. Everyone is hurting, across the nation, and Crist's idea to save our state is to invite our friends down to visit? Really? WTF are these people thinking? NPR quoted Crist as saying, "For every 85 people that come to visit, 1 job is created." Wow. So Mr. Crist, what kind of job? A nice stable, well-paying job like cleaning hotel rooms, parking cars or waiting tables? Because I know that's the kind of job that pays my bills year round. And I would like to know, how stable is that job? Is that a job that's created long-term? Doubtful, more likely its a six month job with no benefits and no stability. And what happens if a Katrina blows through Florida? Or another Andrew? Then tourism is shot for a good few years.

So my real question is this, Mr. Crist. Who are your advisors? What makes you think that leaning on one industry to support an entire state is a good business plan? Since we are already in such a dire position, does it really hurt to look into how we, as a state can diversify our assets? I mean, if this was your stock portfolio, I'm fairly certain your advisor wouldn't recommend putting all your money into one stock. It comes back to the age-old adage: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Even if the person holding the basket is a Kardashian sister.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why I hate going out in Coconut Grove

I know alot of people in the grove are grumbling about this 5 am vs 2 am rule. They argue that it's going to kill businesses because people don't want to end their parties at 2 a.m., and thus will be driven to other parts of Miami.

I went out last weekend to the grove to meet some friends, and I have my own opinion as to why the grove's late-night scene is dying. I remember going out in the grove in grad school, and it being packed. I also remember walking back to my friend's house a few years ago and seeing a nasty knife fight. Has it changed? Does that happen all the time? I don't know because I rarely go back. And the reason why is parking. All over the grove there are these obnoxious "no parking" signs right smack in front of pay stations. Can I park there or not? Is there some arbitrary rule that dictates when I get ticket and when I don't? Because the whole purpose of my parking on the street is so I don't have to pay $6-$10 dollars to safeguard my car for two hours. That's ridiculous.

Some people may counter with the whole, "well you could park a little farther out." And no, I cannot. Reason being, I have yet to hear of the police catching the grove rapist, and I refuse to risk that. Not to mention that parts of the grove have a bad reputation, combine that with the grove rapist and that fond memory of the knife fight and after circling the grove for 30 minutes looking for well-lit parking that won't cost me more than a round or two of drinks and I have already said, "screw it, I'm going to South Miami."

Then if all of this isn't enough of a deterrence, while the grove isn't all about how you look and what you are wearing, it is still pretentious. Often, Grovites have an attitude of annoyance, like they don't want to share their area with non-Grovites. Really? Grow up and get out of the sandbox. When I lived in the Gables, no one ever had that attitude. Probably because local businesses and people there realized that in order for the city to do things like, you know, pay bills and maintain the area, they needed all the cashflow they can get.

The sad thing is, I like the grove. I always have. I like the artsy feel to it, I like that, for the most part, the stores and restaurants are local. I like the relaxed air about it. But it has become too much of a pain to go there. And apparently I am not the only one that holds that opinion. Look at how dead it has become, compared to a few years ago.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Dude, I don't know who you are, but this is an intervention. You can't have a skull decal on your car when you drive a VW Beetle. It doesn't work.

*Spotted at the Bird Road Best Buy

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Benefit Concert for Haiti this Weekend at Bayfront Park

Just heard this morning that there's a benefit concert at Bayfront Park to support Haiti. Here is the link for more information: Some of the best bands in Miami will be there and entrance is based on your donation. All donations will go to the Red Cross. Hope you can make it and support your local musicians in SoFla and the people in Haiti who have lost so much.

- L -

Monday, January 18, 2010

Alternative Transit Fail: Miami

Is it just me? Over the past week, so many stories have popped up in my Google Reader about people being hit by cars while riding bikes in South Florida. Of course all the bike/transit blogs have been reporting this for awhile, but even Rick from SFDB posted on how he no longer bikes in South Florida because of how dangerous it is. I mean, this week children were hit by cars in Fort Lauderdale, a man was killed on Key Biscayne and every other week, someone else is being hit.

Honestly I have been mulling over this post for awhile. Reason being, el Hombre and I take our bikes out for rides in our neighborhood, and I have taken my bike to ride to my karate school a few times. Even with the bike lanes, I am still forced to ride on the sidewalk. Why? Because the streets are poorly lit, overgrown and the bike lanes will start and end with no rhyme or reason. That's just not safe. Even if they were lit, people are constantly speeding to get everywhere (in fact, we saw a girl turn on a right without stopping and hit a biker on the crosswalk a few weeks ago), and everyone is now texting and driving. Seriously! Put the f*****g phone down, slow down, stop at designated spots (for example, red lights and stop signs) and watch where you are going!

The fact of the matter is, unfortunately Miami is not ready to be a bike-friendly town. Critical Mass can ride through Brickell all they want, but that's not going to change anything. Until bike safety is highly regarded by the majority of the people living across Miami-Dade County, a once-a-week bike ride en mass is not going to cut it.

Oh yeah, and anyone who tries to use South Beach as an example of a pedestrian-friendly area, don't even try. I lived there for years and have been hit by cars ignoring red lights and stop signs three times, in three totally different parts of town.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tip for locals and soon-to-be locals: Avoid Progressive

As you may remember, about three or four weeks ago, South Florida was hit with some torrential downpours, flooding many parts of the city. Streets were shut down, people were flooded out of their houses, and their cars. Unfortunately, some of my friends were among that. My good friend and her husband were unfortunate enough to have one of their cars flooded out while he was teaching a martial arts class in North Miami-Dade County. The parking lot flooded so badly that he and one of his students pushed the car out of the waist-deep water onto a hill, and waited hours before they could even leave, since they were stranded. Long story short, my friends had the car towed to a mechanic and called their auto insurance company, Progressive Auto Insurance, to report the incident.

We were all sure that the car would be totaled out, and she was stressing out about having to buy a new car, since that one, while in great condition, was older. To great surprise, Progressive determined the car fixable and approved the mechanic to work on it. Once they replaced the computer in the car, it wouldn't start, so they replaced the battery. Then the fuel pump. They also approved the car's floorboards and seats to be shampooed, since the water had come so high that it had to be done. I guess when the mechanic turned the car on and the started was broken and the clutch needed to be replaced as well, the adjuster realized he screwed up and should have totaled the car out in the first place. SO he goes back and tells the mechanic that the battery, which was already purchased and installed was not, in fact, approved. Then he said that the clutch and started were not the fault of the flood, which is interesting as that car was not driving like that before. I mean, my friend's husband would have noticed it, as he uses it to drive around to teach at the different studios and fitness centers.

Mind you, at this point, my friend and her husband are living off one car for three weeks. She is carpooling so that he can still get to work so they can still make their bills on time. Also, she has been on Progressive for about 6 years, and has a full-coverage policy on both cars. When she called her adjuster, he told her the mechanic said the problems were not from the flood. When she had both the adjuster and the mechanic on the phone, that never came up. Clearly he lied to her. He also hung up on her when she was asking to speak with a manager. Really? Serious Fail Progressive! You cannot clearly communicate when someone's bills come up, and then refuse to do the work you are being paid to do. That is not customer service, that's corporate greed.

Now the sad part is she finally got a manager on the phone. After she filed a complaint with the corporate office (who never responded), sent out tweets to Progressive's Twitter account (their response: Call the 1-800 number to discuss how we can help you with your policy.... uh, did you read the initial tweet? that deserves a #SocialMediaFail) and called the hotline multiple times. After she threatened to cancel her policy, and filed a report with the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs, they finally decided to call her back. Now the mechanic doesn't want to work on the car because he has not been paid for any of the work.

So what do you do? Do you really have to fight so hard in order to get any customer service? Does Progressive really think that they can cover up their mistake by refusing to pay for repairs? And ultimately, is trying to save a few thousand dollars worth losing long-term customers?

My point here is this. These big corporations are still greedy. Things are not changing. Apparently the customer does not matter to them unless they are getting money. I was always taught that my word should be important. If I promise something, I should always follow through on it. I was under the impression that if you create a business model, you should adhere to it, and these insurance companies, whether they are health insurance, auto or homeowner, think their business model is that we pay them lots of money so that we get a shiny card to hold in our wallet, and a three-week fight to get what we pay for. Most people would have given up by now. Thankfully my friend has not and will not.

So if you are shopping around for auto insurance, be aware that this will probably happen to you if you get Progressive. Because this is South Florida. It rains and floods here. Especially during the summer.