plan, attack, retreat

Posted: July 8, 2016 in Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I am only a short-term visitor, but trust me: Florida in July is absolutely miserable.

Oh sure, people are friendly and polite and far less stressed than those back in New Jersey. But the weather here is brutal. It is Arabian hot and the humidity hovers around 6000%. Strange creatures regularly appear like escapees from genetic research labs, weird reptiles and misshapen birds. You can’t take a nice walk without water and a hat. Yes, yes, that last bit sounds normal enough. However, 15 gallons of water strapped to your back isn’t fun. And hats in 95+ degree weather just makes your head sweat and salty rivers flow down your forehead into your eyes like a form of medieval torture.

If you are not situated on one of the coasts – and I mean literally on the coast, like your back steps lead directly into the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico – natural waterways are off limits. Sure, the ponds, lagoons, and assorted inlets look pretty, but are completely unsuitable for humans. Primal beasts slither and snap in those murky waters. I am convinced many undiscovered species thrive in Florida’s rivers and swamps. Even a destitute marine biologist in dire need of grant money to buy a meal avoids proposals that require contact with Floridian sea creatures.

The only guaranteed way to enjoy Florida in July is to avoid it. But that may not be realistic. You could have valid reasons for coming. There may be people living here you long to visit. The Disney/Universal/Sea World centers of commerce may seem irresistible, especially if you are in possession of an insistent 8 year old. You could inexplicably lose all common sense in a freak chocolate consumption incident. You could also…no, I think those three are the only valid reasons.

If you must come, don’t lose hope. It is possible to maintain sanity in a Florida summer. You simply need the constant sweet, sweet nirvana of air conditioning. Mechanical air conditioning is a wonder, one of mankind’s most underrated advances. It keeps you comfortable, but the most remarkable thing is your change in perception. Suddenly, those stagnant palm trees appear lovely and tropical, those slimy lizards and snakes are cute amusements living inside a giant reptilian aquarium called “the outdoors”, and those strange birds with impossibly long beaks and knees that bend backwards are an amusing novelty. I don’t know how people survived in Florida before air conditioning, a place where even the shade begs for relief. But life inside a consistent 74 degree environment is tolerable, even pleasant.

The good news is air conditioning is abundant. The trick is to avoid any contact with outside elements. It is actually more than a trick. It is like military strategy, scenarios with varying degrees of planned attacks and retreats. It makes sense many retirees thrive in Florida. They don’t have to occupy their days at some stupid job wasting energy for someone else. Instead, they can devote time to properly plot their movements from one controlled environment to the next. It becomes a contest to see who can spend the least amount of time outside, or as our religious friends might call it, “hell.” Certainly, the goal is no time outside at all, but that is impractical. We are a civilized people and civilized people must leave the house on occasion. Yes, most essential items can be delivered directly to the door of your 74 degree world by some poor sap. But that poor sap gets paid to be in the heat. You don’t. And some life-sustaining items are simply not suitable for delivery, most importantly ice cream.

People joke good naturedly about the mad rush retirees make to 4:30 dinner buffets in Florida. They think it is so these folks can get home, watch “Jeopardy” and be in bed by 8:00. Pure myth. These dinners are all part of the daily master plan. 4:30 may seem awfully early to eat, but when are the closest parking spots to the restaurant’s front door available? It certainly ain’t 6:00.

  1. Marie Rogers says:

    Air conditioning was the worst thing to happen to Florida. Now we have too many people who come here “for the climate” and hibernate in their dens 24/7. They could do that up north! But no, they cover the state in concrete and suck water from the aquifer for the golf courses they can’t play on because of the heat and humidity. Now, the tourists are wonderful. They visit, spend their money, and go home. You can adapt to the climate. The best time to do yard work is when it’s 100 degrees–too hot for the mosquitoes. I don’t strap 15 gallons of water to my back but keep it in arm’s reach.


  2. rangewriter says:

    What you describe is hell on earth. I’m actually less fearful of hell off earth.


    • John says:

      I can tell I’ve made you anxious to visit Florida.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rangewriter says:

        Actually, I’ve got a friend who goes to Florida at least twice a year to visit/care for her aging parents who live there. She goes in July or August. Says it’s not bad as long as you stay inside with the canned air. She tries to go for runs before the sun comes up, but even that can be too hot. Ugh.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Primal beasts slither and snap in those murky waters.”

    Great line.

    “living inside a giant reptilian aquarium called “the outdoors”

    Good one.

    I have many Floridian memories thanks to both parent’s parents retiring there, two on the coast and two on the gulf. Yes, heat, humidity, and anoles. But what stood out, really, was the smell. There’s always (always) the tropical aroma of rotting plants and other fetid swamp matter hanging in the air. It’s not an unpleasant smell…below 80 degrees. Above that, your brain associates it with hillbilly music and torture. But I repeat myself.

    I’m convinced only non-Floridians can detect it as the natives have had their nostrils burned down by the fumes of so much old lady perfume and coconut suntan lotion that they can no longer detect anything fainter than airboat exhaust. I can clearly remember the scent of horseshoe crab carcasses on the beach coupled with the disappointment of a red tide and cancelled swimming sessions. But the live ones were cute as hell.


    • John says:

      Your descriptive memories are spot-on and funny. Thanks for taking the time to chime in.


      • Hey, I had some good times down there. I always came back to Iowa with bags of cochina shells, peeling skin, and fond memories of coconut-flavored everything. Also, one of the grandmas had a backyard chock-full of fruit trees and antlions. In ten steps out the back door, you could have an armload full of lemons, grapefruits, limes, oranges, and best of all, MANGOES! Aw, HELL, yeah! I guess the antlions took care of the fire ants because I only got zapped by the little bastards at the other grandparents’ house. Bastards.

        Liked by 1 person

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