headlines announced tuition hikes, but the large photo above the
fold of the newspaper shows a (obviously) good-natured man walking
out of frame, somewhat amused at the attention he’s getting from
the camera. The caption should’ve been: “Can I please get back to
Gus Hertz, a thirty seven year-old man from Roanoke, Virginia was
on vacation here in St. Petersburg. On Wednesday he pulled a driver
from a submerged car that had “veered” into the water near a bridge
where he had been trying to fish. According to the paper’s account,
Mr. Hertz wrote down his name for authorities but left before the
press got there.
The next day he returned to the water to get back to fishing when
a sputtering ultra light plane dropped out of the sky. Hertz, who
had been watching the plane had anticipated the fall and was already
headed toward it before it hit the water. He extracted the 74 year-old
pilot and his passenger and took them to shore. Again, leaving his
name but quickly excusing himself.
It’s not often a person goes on vacation and comes back with a front
page souvenir. As shy as he appears to be, we hope Mr. Hertz still
bought a few extra copies to show when his co-workers ask him what
he did on his summer vacation. Suggested line: “I caught three people
– this big.”
Now that Florida’s main export is bizarre headlines, it should be
no surprise why Mr. Hertz is reluctant to claim his 15 minutes.
The St. Pete Fire and Rescue was preparing one award to present
to Mr. Hertz (more lost fishing time for the acceptance) when someone
noticed (perhaps the calligrapher) that the same name would be appearing
on two certificates.
At the very least, the city should call Mr. Hertz’ employer and
request some additional vacation time to make up for all that lost
Inside the same paper was a follow-up story from earlier in the
week. An airboat guide was putting on a show for his clients by
showing them a large alligator in its native habitat. Trying to
make the wild ‘gator “perform,” he unfortunately took the show business
term of “giving a big hand” too literally. Snap. Crunch. Ouch.
The clients (tourists from Indiana) weren’t sure at first if this
wasn’t a staged part of the show. The captain somehow convinced
them it wasn’t and they quickly called 911.
(The alligator was barely into the digestive process when the guide’s
friends dispatched him, and retrieved the hand. There was hope at
first that it could be reattached, but those hopes faded with time.
Florida Fish and Wildlife may rub salt in his wound by charging
the tour operator and fining him since he knew well the rules about
the friendly rivalry between what is increasingly called the “Tampa
Bay Area” and South Florida (frequently called a cultural apocalypse),
St. Petersburg came out the winner this week, thanks to vacationers.
Miami had the face-eating zombie, but that’s become old news.
Now that the rescues and mayhem are over, Tampa and Miami can get
back to the burning issue of who originated the Cuban sandwich –
a rivalry that’s gotten a lot of ink lately.
"15 Minutes of
Separation" June 22, 2012 column
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