I’ll never forget being at a B&B in Natchitoches one weekend. I was standing on the balcony looking down on the street when I noticed something hanging from the power lines across the street. What I saw was about 2 dozen strands of Mardi Gras beads and the Sherlock Holmes in me told me that I was looking on their parade route. Being in Louisiana means seeing beads dangling from power lines all year long.
As I drive down Ryan sometimes I notice our own collection of those Mardi Gras prizes and think back on all the parades in which I’ve driven. Driving in a Mardi Gras parade should be tantamount to taking a defensive driving course. I should qualify for some kind of discount on my auto insurance just by virtue of the fact that I have piloted so many vehicles through the crazy crowds of Mardi Gras.
I feel that I’m both qualified and justified in having a few pet peeves about Mardi Gras. Well, whether I do are not, I have them and here they are:
1. First time parade drivers- Boy, this is one of my BIG pet peeves. I submit that first time parade drivers need to go to school to learn to drive in a parade. These “firsties” as I call them are the cause of most of my frustration in driving in a parade. They are responsible for most of the problems along the parade route. They stop to talk to people along the route. They stop for no damn reason at all. Yes, I know parades are supposed to go fairly slow, but these idiots take it to a whole new definition of the word “slow.” In fact, I’m pretty sure they are proof that people from other planets are here on earth. You’d think that, if they can navigate from whatever planet they are from, they could manage a 10 m.p.h. drive down Ryan Street.

2. Parents who don’t watch their kids – This one is pretty much self-explanatory. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting someone’s little darling on a parade route. I’ve actually seen parents who encourage their kids to run into the street to grab a 3 cent string of beads. Yeah, what could be dangerous about a 3 ton float being driven by a person who only has a few thousand people to watch?

3. Bead freaks – You’d think we were throwing pieces of the Holy Grail. Bead freaks are, for the most part, a mystery to me. I could see their behavior if these pieces of crap we throw during a parade had any intrinsic value at all, but a ton of them would fetch you about a buck on the black market. Still, I see tons of bead freaks every year. They run into the street, they go crazy trying to get your attention and, when you don’t throw them something, they get very aggressive.

4. Drunks – There are people who have been drinking and then there are drunks. These are the people along the parade route who probably have no sense at all when they are stone cold sober. Add a few drinks to the mix and you have yourself a first-class jerk. When we throw beads to them, we aim for the eyes.

5. The Throw-Backers – Yes, believe it or not, there are jerks in the crowd who throw things at the floats. This is a lesson you learn when you’re a firstie. Every parade vet has been hit in the face by some moron who didn’t like what you were throwing so they throw it back at you. It’s a real problem and we try to prepare for it every year. Most, but not all of these people are #4s. The most satisfaction I ever had was once when a cop saw who threw something at me. They dragged the jerk out and took him downtown. Sweet justice.

Still in all, you know what? I look forward to Mardi Gras. There’s something about the semi-controlled chaos that appeals to me. Who knows, maybe this year I won’t get behind a firstie!

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