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Crime on the mean, slow streets of Pasco

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© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000

If Richard Michael Egan did what police say he did -- took cabs to several golf courses and then to another location where he sold sets of expensive clubs stolen from those courses -- then he not only has what one victim described as amazing gall, he also has more faith in west Pasco traffic control and taxi service than I do.

And I knew instinctively that he must have called the car service (not, technically, a taxicab) company with which I am most familiar there -- because otherwise he'd still be waiting and the alleged crime would have been thwarted.

The last time I called a taxi in New Port Richey, it took two hours before I finally gave up and called the car service.

And the concept of anyone using the street system there to get anywhere in a hurry, even if they CAN get a cab to show up, is tickling to any of us who have ever tried it.

Let's be sure to note here that Egan, 29, is only charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. It will be up to a judge and possibly jury to decide whether he did what he is accused of.

But authorities say he called a cab to pick him up at his house, had the driver take him to two golf courses -- one in Clearwater and one in East Lake -- and then to a driving range on Ridge Road that also buys and sells golf equipment.

A day later, sheriff's deputies said, Egan had a different driver take him to a golf course at Bayonet Point and then to Fox Hollow, and then back to the same place on Ridge Road.

I am among the seriously uninitiated when it comes to golf equipment, because I can't play golf. I swing a baseball bat and a golf club left-handed -- and equally poorly -- and you have to have special clubs for that.

I am right-handed in other things, so I don't need the special scissors or playing cards (try it, fan standard cards left-handed and the numbers disappear). But I would need left-handed golf clubs.

Since none of my golfing friends are left-handed, I have been cheated out of a chance to learn the game, and therefore to progress in the corporate hierarchy. (I'm sure lack of education and ability had nothing to do with it.)

But, left-handed or not, I know better than to put my safety in the hands of what passes for public transportation in coastal West Florida.

The fact that a man accused of a crime even knows to call the car service instead of the taxicab company indicates that he is at least familiar with some of the problems there -- which might make him a better candidate for County Commission than for a prison term.

New Port Richey, Spring Hill and Crystal River all are good places to study meditation and temper control. You are going to be irritability-tested two or three times a day, and meditation will give you something to do while you are waiting for transportation to appear, for a light to change or for a break in traffic (ha!) so you can make a left turn.

I theorized out loud the other day that if I had back all of the time I have spent doing those things, I would have almost an entire other lifetime. My officemates, intentionally cruel young people, say that if I had back the time I spend looking for my car keys and glasses or having things repeated back to me so I can hear them, I would have three other lifetimes.

It was about 25 years ago, I remember, when an acquaintance of mine who was a Tampa Tribune photographer quit his job, saying, "I'm tired of chasing spot news at 15 mph."

And we thought traffic was bad back then. It never dawned on us that the transportation whizzes would come up with the idea of widening U.S. 19 so we could have wider traffic jams.

I love that there is now a television series based on the life of Donnie Brasco, the undercover name of an FBI agent who infiltrated organized crime when it first moved into Pasco County. Chances are not much of the action in the series will actually take place there.

They'll never get away with the concept of anyone jumping into a cab and yelling, "Follow that car."

Although, if they do, it might be funnier than Third Rock.

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