Driving down I-75 into Florida as a newly-minted retired couple or as a family headed to Disney World, your expectation as a consumer/visitor to the Sunshine State would probably be a billboard bombardment of the vacation opportunities that await you--attractions, discounts, retirement communities full of young, active retirees, the holdovers from "old" Florida, like airboat rides or glass bottom boats. You would be wrong.
Not entirely wrong, of course. There is some of that. But it is not the dominant impression you have after your first 50 miles.
No, the billboards of north Florida seem to assume that you are pregnant. That you are planning to have, or are at least pondering an abortion. Or that you have gotten someone pregnant. Or are planning to. And will want to talk her into pursuing that same path.
I guess I blame that one billboard advertising Poker and Jai-Alai. If you're going to detour off the interstate to a place where gambling and betting are the activities of choice, then, of course, you are likely to compromise yourself in other ways.
But that is just one billboard. Most show fetuses, with a reminder of when their hearts start beating. Or with the possibilities of what that unaborted child could become--even an Albert Eisntein, who I'm pretty sure was not a Christian, even though these billboards most certainly are.
I guess I blame those fewer billboards that are actually about Florida, the ones showing the distance in hundreds of miles to Cocoa Beach or, more specifically, to the Ron Jon Surf Shop. For on those billboards are young, fit, swimsuit-clad teenagers whose lives of frolicking in few clothes in the sand must surely lead to the need for the indoctrination of the more dominant billboards.
Or maybe it's something to do with north Florida, because the plethora of anti-abortion billboards decreases dramatically once you get down the road a bit. Is there some kind of abortion epidemic up around Lake City? Or are people slipping over the line from Georgia? And how could that be? North Florida is a Republican stronghold. Did Dr. DeJarlais move down there or what?
One guy whose signs used to be all over the place but aren't as much is Doug, the vasectomy guy. Doug looks like a sleazy Ron Livingston from Office Space, and looks like he enjoys his job a little too much. For years it seemed like, based on the range of his ads, he must have toured Florida nonstop, performing "no scalpel, no pain" nut snips. He was everywhere. Maybe he did them in a helicopter. One has to wonder if the anti-abortion activists have decreased the demand for Doug.
Lest you think I exaggerate, allow me to concede that there are other billboards along those early highway miles--for gun stores boasting 1000 guns and there are gas stations waving Confederate flags (the good kind that aren't all battle flags, that also have a large rectangle of white and one of red).
And lest you think I criticize, when you head out of Florida into southern Georgia, you see billboards that simply read "#Secede."
Georgia and Florida also promote their "We Bare All" truck stop/strip clubs. And the thing you notice in Georgia is that one out of every four billboards is either empty and white or is an advertisement for how to rent it, so I'm guessing you could rent one for a song and make your own statement in these bi-polar, toxic driving wastelands. Or it may be that billboards aren't good for much, except to tell where is a hotel or restaurant or strip club that you would like to frequent.