Although I lived more than 25 years in South Florida, I never considered myself a "Florida boy." I have friends who wouldn't live anywhere else; that was never my position. As with any region, there are things to like and things to dislike about South Florida. When on that scorecard we all keep in our head the dislikes outnumber the likes, it's time to go. I reached that juncture in 2005.
It is no coincidence that 2005 was the year Hurricane Wilma tore through Palm Beach County. As close as I ever want to come to losing everything, Wilma was one scary broad. She followed Frances and Jeanne that roared through the year before. Skyrocketing insurance rates -- mine more than quadrupled in five years, a hurricane-caused 50% hike in utility costs, and the clean up from three hurricanes in less than 18 months, was sufficient to get me packing my bags for a move away from the ocean.
I could have put up with some of the other negatives of living in Florida. Anyone who has spent any time in South Florida knows there are three glaring negatives:
- If you under the age of 50, you are in the minority. Obviously, by 2005, I was on the majority side of the age equation; but even old people don't like to surround themselves with "old" people. It makes you feel, well, old.
- Partially an extension of the "old" issue: Too many people driving in South Florida are simply incompetent. Notice I didn't say Florida drivers are incompetent. Many of them are, but I'm talking about people -- all the people -- driving on South Florida streets. You've got retired snowbirds who are on streets they don't know and in rental cars they can't operate; this is a formula for disaster. You have French Canadians, who evidently find making the mental computations to translate miles per hour into kilometers per hour beyond the scope of their high school degree. They stubbornly drive at least 5 mph below the speed limit at all times. Then a function of the next bullet point, you have drivers who are simply rude. Common courtesy isn't in their lexicon or behavior. Why use your brakes when you have a horn? Why let someone into your lane when that will put you an additional car length behind? Why switch off your turn signal when you will probably need it later?
- Too many people in South Florida just aren't very nice. For them every-day interaction with other people is a contact sport. They are rude, pushy, loud and generally obnoxious. At the risk of libeling the population of an entire region, the Northeast serves as the source for the majority of transplanted South Floridians. There is a reason that the definition of happiness in South Florida is the sight of 100,000 French Canadians heading for home with a New Yorker stuffed under each arm.
Yes, by 2005, the dislikes on my mental scorecard were far outweighing the likes. However as I sit at my work station bundled in sweats looking out at spotty patches of snow in my yard, I am ready for winter's end. With more than half the cold season still spread in front of me, I am ready for some warm weather.
The lack of seasons in South Florida gets old and boring. It is possible to grow tired of 80-degree days. I like having an excuse to wear a sweater and don my leather jacket. There is nothing better than reclining in front of a fire with an Irish coffee. But after two or three weeks of winter, I am over it. Enough already.
April can't get here soon enough.