Living in Florida is unique.
I’ve been to and through enough states (41 so far – though I have only lived in three) to know that every state has their peculiarities. Every state has those little trinkets and souvenirs that you have to bring back to all your friends to prove that you were there – like Moose droppings from Alaska. Every state has those places you have to go to so you can say you’ve been there and done that – like Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
In Florida, there are so many things to see and do and so many places to go you cannot summarize it with one little emblematic trinket. There’s so much here that our license plates don’t just come in one variety with a picture of, say, Crater Lake or a buffalo on the open plain. OK, so we’re not the only state with specialty plates, but I know we were the first to make it big business and we have the most designs to choose from – exactly 100
. Everything from one celebrating the “Everglades River of Grass,” to “Kids Deserve Justice” (what does that mean?), to “Save the Manatee,” to one for the “Ringling School of Art and Design.” Our state legislature spends their entire session just voting on new plate designs. (I’m going to see if I can get them to make one to “Save the Endangered Blog of the Humble Muse’s Husband
When I say living in Florida is like living nowhere else, this is not just state pride because, well, I don’t have any. How can you when your state song is “Old Folks At Home”. Anyway, what made me begin to think about this today is the fact that I woke up to the sound of the A/C running. A couple of weeks ago I was freezing in Alaska in sub-zero weather and wind chills of 30 below. Today, December 1, in Florida, my A/C is running, it is expected to get up to the mid 80’s this afternoon, and the kids were swimming yesterday. I didn’t even see water in it’s liquid state in Alaska.
Now, to be fair, I was told that last week there were actually snow flurries in Orlando, but I think this just makes my point. Where else can you have flurries one day and be swimming in 80 degree weather a couple of days later?
Of course everyone knows that Florida has hurricanes, but why is this a big surprise? Look on a map – the state sticks out into the warmest waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean like a big proboscis that just dares every tropical system that passes by, “Hit me!” The storms come, wipe out expensive, ocean front houses, and everyone moans, “Why did this have to happen?” I’ve got news for you, you’re living on a big sand bar in the most active tropical waters on the planet, and you built your house 10 feet from the breaking waves on the beach. Go figure!
Everyone fears hurricanes - except for people who live in Key West. They throw big hurricane parties out on the exposed decks of all the beach front bars. (Then again, Key West seceded from the state a long time ago and became the Conch Republic
). But worse than hurricanes by far are the afternoon thunderstorms that hit every day. In fact, if you live in the middle of the state you can pretty much set your clock by their arrival at about 4:30 every afternoon.
Furthermore, to say it’s raining in Florida is like saying the Grand Canyon is a nice little hole in the ground. When it rains here, it doesn’t just rain. It’s like someone transported Niagara Falls from New York to your back yard. I say your
back yard, because while you are sand bagging your doors against the rising tide, your neighbor next door can stand in his back yard with his arms folded across his chest and remain perfectly dry while providing helpful weather observations – something like “Boy, it sure is coming down, isn’t it?” Mercifully, you know that the rain will stop after exactly 30 minutes; otherwise we would have to change the state’s motto to “Water World.”
With the thunderstorms, of course, comes the lightning. Florida is the lightning capital
of the country. From 1959 to 2003 lightning killed 3,696 people in the United States. Of those, 425 were in the Sunshine State. 424 of them were golfers, I’m sure of it. (By the way, take heart frozen friends from the north, Alaska was the only state that did not record a lightning death in that period. The bad news is that during the same period 652 people were killed by slipping on frozen moose droppings).
But really, weather is not the most deadly thing about Florida - Tourists are.
It’s true. If you live in certain areas of Central Florida, your auto insurance rates are a lot higher simply because you live in a tourist area. Driving in tourist areas is especially hazardous because people on vacation here think that Florida is just one big Disney World and they’re driving down Main Street USA and that all the other cars are just props. They can make right turns from the left most lane, left turns from the right most lane, u-turns from any lane they choose, and sudden and complete stops in the middle of the intersection to check their map for directions. Add to that the fact that half of them come from countries where they already drive on the wrong side of the road and you begin to get the picture.
Florida also has unique geography. Down here we are prone to have sinkholes. You see, much of Florida’s landscape is comprised of what’s known as "karst." A karst terrain is a land surface produced by water dissolving the limestone bedrock. Basically what this means is that the state sits on a thin piece of brittle rock and sand with nothing under it. Well, nothing but ground water. Problem is, when my neighbor decides to turn on their well pump so they can soak their new impatiens (because impatiens will die in exactly 4 seconds in the Florida heat unless provided with constant hydration) there goes the neighborhood – literally. Sinkholes have swallowed houses, municipal swimming pools, Porsches, trees, streets, pick-up campers, auto shops, ball fields, end even entire lakes, including all the fish and alligators. They are like earth-bound black holes, but without the promise of instant transport to the other side of the galaxy.
Speaking of geography, did you know that the highest point in Florida is Britton Hill at a whopping 345 feet above sea level? This means that if Al Gore is correct, you folks in southern Alabama and Georgia are sitting one some prime ocean front real estate. Of course, Britton Hill is in the panhandle – which really isn’t Florida anyway.
How many states claim a living dinosaur as their state reptile? OK, so there’s a few that lay claim on the American Alligator, but only one state has an airport with an alligator filled moat surrounding it. Not kidding – just try to sneak into Orlando International Airport without going through security. TSA has nothing on this.
There’s all kinds of other oddities about Florida. We have a tall building known as the Citrus Tower which was once a highlight for tourists visiting Central Florida’s vast citrus country in the rolling hills of Clermont. Now it overlooks nothing but houses as far as the eye can see. I think they’re going to rename it the subdivision overdevelopment overpriced home paved over countryside tower.
The county where I live was once named Mosquito County. No kidding. They finally figured this was probably not good for tourism so they changed it to something else far less interesting.
From Florida we launch probes to Pluto and shuttles into earth orbit yet people really do still put pink flamingos in their front yard. We have a whole city (population 9) whose only residents are genuine mermaids
And, yes, people do decorate their palm trees with Christmas lights. I’ll put up some pictures of my favorites soon.
If I don’t get run over by a tourist on the way…