In Defense of Florida

I’ve lived in this state for over thirty years and, like most people, have laughed along with the Florida Man jokes. Yes, we have a lot of kooky residents, and they do crazy things. But have you ever considered where Florida Man comes from? The other forty-nine states!

We have a saying here – that whenever something shakes the United States, all this loose bits roll down here. People move here to retire, for the weather, for the low taxes, or because they have this crazy idea that they can just sleep on the beach and, I don’t know, live off oranges.

I once read that some people consider, “where are you from?” an offensive question, but in Florida it’s one of the first things people say to each other. You seldom come across that rare bird, a native Floridian. I only know two – my children!

The honest truth, though, is that Florida really is different. It’s a weird mix of farmers, tourists (both foreign and domestic), snowbirds, and young professionals clustered around the cities. It’s a place where people will stop to move a turtle out of the road or wait for storks to cross the street. Alligators are just another hazard, like snakes and hurricanes, that you learn to live with. Or don’t.

After a while, you get used to the mosquitos big enough to kidnap small pets, the humidity that rivals those hot towels barbers used to slap on men’s faces, and begin thinking of air conditioning as a civil right. Hurricanes? Until they get up to category 3, it just means we’ll have to mow the lawn an extra time. We might lose electricity for a day or two, but then you get to eat up the ice cream in the freezer (the ice cream you bought just before the storm for just such an occasion.)

Living in Florida means dodging potholes, eating citrus fruit off your own trees, and cooking out holding an umbrella over the grill because the four o’clock rain shower decided to come early that day. It means kindly helping a lost tourist find their way to Walt Disney World, or to the nearest public restroom. It means hot wet weather in the summer and cold wet weather in the winter. Yes, we do have a winter period. One of my favorite comments on our seasons comes from a local radio host, Jack Harris. “We do so have four seasons! Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer, and Christmas.”

It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise. A beach-lover’s heaven. A tourist mecca. More than that, though, most of it is a really nice place to live.

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