!!!Things That REALLY Piss Me Off
FLORIDA
(Where death NEVER takes a holiday!  ) 

Legend has it that when elephants realize that they are about to die they walk, sometimes very long distances, to what we humans refer to as their burial grounds, a specific location somewhere in Africa which is where all “in the know” elephants want to be caught dead!  Life (and death) for many North Americans is very similar to the African elephants because humans migrate to a very special location as they grow closer to death.  We refer to that location as “Florida” which is derived from an ancient Seminole Indian word, “Florta”, and which loosely translated means, “Come on down and die en masse!” 

The subtropical winter temperatures of the Sunshine State is what makes it death’s ideal waiting room because there’s no law I know of that says there’s anything wrong with “waiting” in comfort.  But there are yet other amenities that make Florida ideal for senior citizens patiently awaiting there last big “move”.  These other amenities are, in no special order, as follows:
    
  1. Perfect temperatures year round, which means no walks to shovel (that would give you a fatal heart attack) or ice to slip on (you could break a hip!).
  2. Florida has more drugstores than Donald Trump has faults!  Really, pharmacies outnumber illegal immigrants by almost three to one, and there seems to be at least one drugstore (and often more) at every intersection.  And drug stores, unlike immigrants, aren’t on Donald Trumps’ hit list!
  3. Unlike many states in the northeast or western parts of the US, Florida has no mountains.  In fact, it really doesn’t have any hills either.  According to Wikipedia, its mean elevation is less than 100 feet above sea level, and its highest point is in Britton Hill in the pan handle which is a whopping 345 feet above sea level!  By comparison, it makes New Jersey look like the western Himalayans!  The bottom line is that seniors love it because it’s a lot easier walking in Florida so there are fewer falls and fewer broken hips!
  4.  Florida is where one phenomenon, a phenomenon very special and dear to all senior citizens, had its genesis.  That phenomenon is called “the early bird special”.  The term has nothing to do with our flying friends, but the mere utterance of those words will excite a Florida senior much the same as an adolescent boy’s first sexual experience. 
  5.  Everyone in Florida drives kind of crazy like, so seniors don’t stick out as crappy drivers like they do up north.
  6. There is an odd phenomenon in Florida that isn’t seen all that much in other States, but in Florida you see it wherever you go.  For some reason, well to do people buy homes in Florida in which they become imprisoned because these communities have gatehouses and security barriers surrounding their borders which control who gets out.  At least that’s the way I think it works!
  So that gives you some idea of why Florida attracts seniors much in the same way New York and New Jersey drivers are attracted to the left lane.  And with that information out in the open, let’s take a closer look at a few more of Florida’s oddities

How about if we begin with one of my favorites which has to do with Florida drivers.  Unlike New York or New Jersey drivers who’d cut you off or run you over without even thinking about it, Florida drivers are actually more courteous than most states, but don’t confuse “courteous” with “good”.  And there is one thing they do that shakes me to the bone.  Because of the heavy traffic in the larger Florida cities, most major intersections have been designed to handle huge numbers of cars many of which want to turn left or right rather than simply continue on straight.  To move these large volumes of traffic as efficiently as possible, major intersections have two or three lanes in each direction plus one or even two left hand turn lanes and one right turn lane, and the traffic lights give takes turns giving each of these lanes and its drivers the undisputed right of way to move in their chosen direction.  It’s a system that successfully moves an incredible number of cars in a fairly efficient manner.  
  
But there’s a big price to be paid for this efficiency, and that price is time.  In order for each lane to get its turn, it takes time, a lot of time, time which most people find difficult to accept.  And all too often, those who don’t have the requisite patience try to cheat the system by….how can I best say this?....by extending the time of their green light.  In other words, when the light turns yellow they still willfully go through the light, and when it finally turns to red….hey, why let a little thing like a red light stop you?  Without exaggeration, often times five or more cars will go through even after the light has turned to red, and if you’re a law abiding citizen from up north who think that yellow means “caution” and red “stop”, then you should be prepared to get ass wacked if you are one of those four or five cars and decide to stop rather than exercise your “right” to run the red light. 
  
Apparently, in Florida a red light is just a suggestion!  Shortly after our first extended post retirement trip to Florida, a friend gave me one of the best “stay alive” bits of advice I’ve ever had.  He said that whenever I’m driving in Florida and am the first person in line at a stop light, always (and he really underscored “always”) look both ways before proceeding through the light.  And he was so right because, as I soon saw first hand, not to do so is plain old fashioned suicide!
  
Shopping at a super market in Florida is also a much different experience than shopping up north.  To begin with, and contrary to popular belief, apparently very little produce is grown in Florida any more.  I had also thought that most fruits, and especially water melons, were grown in Florida, but my first clue that this was quite possibly not the case came when I discovered that nearly all produce was significantly more expensive there than back home.  That possibility was brutally confirmed one day while in a Publix Supermarket.  I was in a watermelon kind of mood, but after a complete tour of the produce department, none were to be found.  Finally, I asked a clerk if they had seedless watermelons. 
  
He kind of stared at me for a brief moment, almost as if to say, “Are you stupid, or what?” and then responded with a smile, ‘Sure…,.they’re in the back.  You want one?”  And silly me….I said, “Yes, please.”
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And so the clerk disappeared through a door and a few moments later returned carrying a full size seedless watermelon which he gently placed in the bottom of my shopping cart. We only had a few items to buy which we paid for and then headed out to the car.  As we were leaving the store several clerks appeared to be looking our way and snickering, but I really didn’t pay any attention to it.  And then, as we were backing out of our parking space, it dawned on me why the clerks were having a good laugh.  The seventeen bucks and change I had just shelled out seemed like a lot of money for a dozen eggs, a quart of milk, a loaf of bread and one seedless watermelon, so I asked my wife to fish out the receipt from one of the bags which told us that the watermelon had cost $11.95!  No, that’s not a typo, but it may be a new Guinness Record for the price of a watermelon in the “free” world!

Our next Florida oddity coincidentally also takes place at Florida supermarkets….or perhaps more correctly, in their parking lots.  Most Florida parking lots feature angled parking and one way aisles, aisles that are narrower than aisles with ninety degree parking.  In the angled setup you would naturally think that they would alternate the directional flow from one aisle to the next so that you could cover the entire lot in an orderly and efficient manner when you’re searching for a space.  You know, up one aisle and down the next…but get that out of your head because that’s not how it works.  For whatever reason, they will often have two or even three aisles in a row that all go in the same direction.  Why is that significant?  I’ll tell you why.  If you see an empty spot in an aisle right next to your present aisle, and if both aisles are one way in the same direction, you can’t simply drive to the end of your aisle and then make a quick U turn onto the adjacent aisle with the empty space.  Instead, you must loop all the way around and get to the top of the aisle if you want to access the lane where you saw they empty space and, of course, by the time you do that, the space will be long gone.

But not to worry because Floridians have a way around that one too.  If you get to a parking space where you see someone loading groceries into a car (or even if it looks like they might be doing so sometime in the near future), you simply stop your car in the middle of the lane (so that no one can get around you) and wait for that person to load their groceries from their cart into their car, return the cart to an appropriate location, and then walk back to their car and eventually vacate their parking space.  Never mind that the wife of the guy parked in the aisle right in front of you may have just decided to have her teeth whitened in the dental office right next to the supermarket while her husband waits in the car because, apparently, in Florida it’s acceptable for you to set up camp in the aisle and wait for that parking space to clear and to do so in the center of the aisle so that no one behind you can get past you and continue with their search for a parking space.
  
Next, I have saved for last one of my all time favorites….one that I promise will leave you scratching your head and asking, “Why?”  On our first extended Florida stay I quickly discovered that Florida babies are among the ugliest in the world.  I couldn’t explain it at the time, but just about every carriage I looked into had an incredibly ugly baby.  Finally, after a few weeks of horrible nightmares from observing this phenomenon, one day I looked a bit closer and was shocked to find that these weren’t babies after all.  They were “rat terriers”, a generic name I and others have given to all breeds of small dogs.  Yes, you heard me correctly…what I was seeing was not ugly babies in these baby carriages but rather little tiny dogs!  More specifically, I define a “rat terrier” as any canine less than ten inches in length (tail length excluded) or, perhaps even more specifically, any dog that can’t be comfortably fit into a microwave oven and survive at least 30 seconds at medium power.  This group of dogs is very popular with seniors in Florida….perhaps because they’re not nearly big enough to pose a credible threat of turning on their owners. 

I have no idea how this practice of trucking rat terriers around in baby carriages got started, but it is as widespread as cow dung on a dairy farm and quite disturbing on many different levels.  But even worse is that these aren’t simply baby carriages put into service to ferry dogs around, but rather carriages made specifically for dogs and sold in huge numbers in Floridian pet stores.  Maybe these dog owners are trying to make up for poor treatment of their own children when they were growing up.  Regardless….dogs in carriages?  Come on!    
  
  

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