At our advanced age, we don’t like the cold. We don’t like the snow, the ice, the slippery driveway, the necessity of bundling up like Nanook of the North just to get the mail. In short, we don’t like winter.
As a temporary fix to this situation, we took ourselves off to Florida for a little bit of sun and a little bit of ambient temperature that is double-digit and doesn’t start with a 1 or a 2 or a 3. At the risk of offending everyone in the Sunshine State, we immediately noticed five idiosyncrasies central to Florida that you will never find in the tourist brochure.
The first is that there are two schools of thought about how to use a turn signal. Some people turn their signal on and never turn it off. They drive around, blissfully oblivious, with all the drivers behind them wondering, “Are they turning here? Here? Here?” (This includes, of course, only drivers who are paying attention to minute details such as the driver in front of them. Most people behind the wheel are on the phone or texting or putting on their makeup or examining their nose hair or something else wholly unrelated to transportation.) Contemplating an endlessly blinking turn signal does make the time pass while sitting in the traffic jams the huge influx of snowbirds create. Other people never — never — use a turn signal. It’s perceived as an indication of weakness. Driving can be a blood sport in Florida and this second group of folks does not want to give up the slightest edge.
Another thing about the state is the dining culture. Four thirty is considered a suitable dinner hour, with bedtime to follow shortly thereafter. Only bohemian pinko commie hippies eat later than 5. Anyone who sees 9 p.m. is deemed a real night owl.
Along with appropriate signaling behavior, another thing many drivers in Florida assiduously avoid is looking behind them before they back up. Rearview mirrors are a fashion accessory in their cars … a place to hang fuzzy dice or pictures of their grandchildren or a large blue placard for the handicapped on which is printed, “Do not hang from mirror.” The one thing rearview mirrors are not used for is looking at the rearview.
Since this is a family newspaper, I cannot site the next quirk precisely. But you will get the gist of it when I quote a man who was recently retired. When asked what his plans were for his leisure years, he said, “I am going to move to Florida and b—ch about the government full time.” Lots of b—ching about the government goes on there.
The fifth, and most disturbing by far, is the generally accepted belief that it is always open season on discussing personal health. Very personal health. One of the worst aspects of this last item is how it sort of sneaks up on you. A person will cross the Georgia/Florida border as a perfectly discrete individual. This person, as a perfectly discrete individual, would not accept as dinner conversation an in-depth dialogue about gall stones, kidney stones, or eventual head stones. Other taboo topics would include a blow-by-blow of a cataract surgery (“and then they pulled my eyeball out …”), the pneumonia vaccine (“and then they stuck this giant needle in all the way to the bone …”), the flu shot (“and then I got the flu …”), or, saints preserve us, colon health (“and then they took this giant tube and …”).
In Florida, these topics are not forbidden. They are not frowned upon. They are not considered in poor taste. They are very nearly required.
So that is why, last night, we were appalled to note that we and our friends, who had been in the state for exactly five hours, were having a frank and fairly graphic conversation that revolved entirely around where a person could get shingles vaccine. We did not talk about the economy, we did not hold forth on the price of oil. We were not even b—ching about the government. All we could focus on was where to get a shingles vaccine. A free shingles vaccine. Because when you are in Florida, the seat of all hatred of government, it is important to figure out where to get something the government will pay for.
That’s when we knew it was time to come home.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Sidney Daily News, Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.