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Why Didn’t We Retire to Florida?

     I woke up this morning and it was raining. The temperature was in the high 30s. But by 9:30 a.m. the temperature had dropped into the 20s and the rain had turned to snow. 

     Three days ago it was 70 degrees in Pennsylvania! What’s going on?

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Pennsylvania today

     What’s going on is the change of seasons. As my wife says: Think of March as winter, not spring. Then you’ll be pleasantly surprised when it’s nice out, and not disappointed when it snows.

     Then she reminded me, “Your friend Bill is on Sanibel Island this week.”

     “Bully for him,” I grumbled.

     “And don’t forget to call your sister,” she said.

     My sister lives in Jacksonville, FL. She’s planning a trip to New York City later in April. We’re trying to make arrangements to get together.

     Meanwhile, The Players golf tournament is going on in Jacksonville this weekend. I’ll catch some of it on TV, and bask vicariously in the green grass, gentle breezes and friendly palm trees of Ponte Vedra. And I’ll wonder: why again didn’t we retire in Florida?

     Let me count the ways.

     It’s too hot. It’s hard to believe right now, but most of the time it’s just too hot. I remember one time I was in Sarasota on business right after Labor Day. I had to walk across a parking lot to an office building. The heat from the pavement burned through my shoes so badly that I broke into a run just to get into the shade of the building and then inside to the air conditioning. Of course, I was sweating like a pig when I arrived at my appointment. So . . . I looked it up. At that time of year the average daily high temperature is 90 degrees — and that’s in the shade, if there ever was any shade — and the worst part is that it doesn’t cool off at night.

     It’s too muggy. I was in Arizona last May. The temperatures were over 100 degrees. It was hot, but bearable. But it feels hotter in Florida when it’s 90 degrees than it does in Arizona when it’s 100 degrees. Because of the 80% humidity. And then . . . it rains!

     It’s too trashy. Except for a very few nice downtown areas in Sarasota, Naples and a scattering of other places, the typical landscape in Florida involves a six-lane thoroughfare lined with gas stations, fast-food restaurants, strip malls and motels. Florida is just butt ugly.


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The real Florida

There’s too much traffic. Those six-lane thoroughfares are choked with traffic, even out of season. And then, of course, winter arrives with its four-month infestation of SUVs from New York and New Jersey, Illinois and Indiana, Michigan and Massachusetts.

     It’s too crowded. All those cars bring hordes of tourists and retirees who stand in line at restaurants, mob the amusement parks, overrun the beaches. Then out of season . . . the place is deserted. The condos are dark, the malls are empty, the beaches are a wasteland . . . yet, somehow, the roads are still choked with cars.

     Too many old people. I realize this is the pot calling the kettle black. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’d like living in a place where everyone is as old as I am. I like living on our street where children play in their yards. I like going to a restaurant where young couples and groups of middle-age women liven up the place. I like walking around town and seeing teenagers bouncing into the ice-cream shoppe and young singles lining up at Starbucks.

     The algae blooms. You can’t go in the water in Florida because of the red tide and other algae blooms. And now they’ve discovered something new: Sargassum seaweed on Florida beaches contains arsenic and other health hazards.

     Bugs, alligators, sharks and snakes. ‘Nuff said.

     Too much crime. My sister told me when she comes to New York she’s staying on the Upper East Side, where she’ll feel safe. What I didn’t tell her, but I know it’s true, the crime rate in Jacksonville is higher than it is in New York City. And Jacksonville’s not the worst. Miami, Daytona Beach,  Fort Myers all have more crime than Jacksonville.

     Lightning. Florida has been dubbed the lightning capital of the world, with an average of 1.45 million lightning strikes every year, more than any other state. It also has more deaths by lightning — over 60 in the last ten years.

     Hurricanes! Florida experiences twice as many hurricanes as Texas, Louisiana or North Carolina. Hurricanes have caused billions of dollars of damage in Florida, and have killed dozens of people.

     No seasons. Florida has a semi-tropical climate. There are no bright colors of autumn, no pretty snowfalls of winter, no expectation of spring when the daffodils poke up and the forsythia start to bud . . . and most of all, there’s no end of summer like there is up north when the heat and humidity break and the nights turn cool and you can finally breathe again.

     Is this beginning to sound like sour grapes? I’m not saying Florida is the worst place on earth. Think of the bright side. Florida has no volcanoes! (But there have been earthquakes.)  Besides, I have to admit, I like visiting Florida in the winter . . . and right now I’m jealous of my friend Bill. 

Tom Lashnits Writer, Blogger
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