Human zombies, old people, Disney, beaches, humidity that turns your butthole into marshland every time you step outside — we’ve all got our notions of Florida, and chances are they’re all accurate. But that doesn’t mean Floridians like to hear about them.
I don’t even like Florida — I moved 2,000 miles away to the freezing-cold high desert to get away from it. But I’m still from there, and I still go there, and it still wells me up with all the wrath of a bath-salt junkie when people do these things.
Assume we all, like, LOVE the beach.
I grew up by Lake Okeechobee, which is exactly as far from the beach as possible in both directions. Our beach was a murky lake littered with broken glass, water moccasins, and alligator corpses. Seriously.
Of course that still left me under an hour from the beach on either coast, but that doesn’t mean I ever put forth any effort to go to it. Sunburns, sand you could fry frog legs on, old people in bikinis, surfer bros, that salty stickiness that makes putting your clothes back on almost impossible…there’s really more to dislike about the beach than there is to like. I’d rather be on a mountain surrounded by rocks and pine trees.
Assume we’re “Southerners.”
Florida is south, I get that. It’s also connected to the most stereotypically, painfully “Southern” states in the country. However, unless you’re up in north Florida (or “NoFlo,” as nobody calls it, ever), and right next to the Georgians and Alabamans, you’re more likely to be in a flavorless nexus of neutral America (or even displaced Latin America).
Sure we have lots of cows and cowboys. Sure there are people like my dad who moved here from up north and buy confederate flag fridge magnets and Florida Gators t-shirts even though they’ve never even seen the UF campus. But look at this map of red vs. blue states — Florida was America’s Blue Thumb in the 2012 election, over 1,000 miles from the next blue state. It’s not the “South” (sorry, Virginia, you’re in that boat now, too).
Antagonize sub-professional football.
This isn’t to say we don’t have some Southern qualities — e.g., a love for college and even high school football. Florida consistently churns out the nation’s top football recruits for college, and if you say anything about Florida State’s mascot being racist (Chief the Seminole), some redneck will pop up and throw a tomahawk at you for irony sake. Unless you’re around a Gator fan, in which case you’re likely to have a bro in khaki shorts and flip-flops enact an embarrassing “chomping” motion with his arms and then kneel into a Tebow.
Glorify theme parks.
Living in Orlando for 6 years made me very tired of talking about Disney to people who have never been to Disney (actually, also to people who have). We also went to theme parks on field trips growing up, so by the time I was in high school they were old news. By the time I got to college they became a cute novelty I only went to if my school was putting on a free event.
For the record, once you’re older than about 8, Disney is something akin to hell. You always end up going during summer, so you wait around all day in the 98-degree heat sweating your balls out of your shorts and getting sunburned so you can feel that glorious 20 seconds of wind (or air conditioning) against your face, all while munching down salty food that makes you thirst for a $5 bottle of gross Dasani water.
And in the name of contradicting myself, yes, Harry Potter Land is incredible.
Drive like a Floridian.
When I was in college (possibly even now), four of the most dangerous cities in the country to be a pedestrian were all in Florida. I’ve almost been knocked off my bike while riding crosswalks and sidewalks more times than I can count. My friend got hit on his motorcycle at a stoplight by a frat guy, and when the guy got out of his car he said, I think you scratched my car, bro.
Point is, drivers in Florida will kill you. I don’t know what it is about the humidity or the old people or the lack of bike lanes or what, but people are either driving recklessly or so annoyingly cautiously that it propels you to drive recklessly.
Bring up how “crazy” Florida is.
If you think I’m talking about “crazy” as in “party” or “fun” or “wild,” you either have a very different conception of those terms than I do or you haven’t seen this.
Yes, all those things happened (#21 went to my high school). No, this isn’t even exhaustive (I know a guy who got his arm bit off by an alligator when his drunk friends dared him he wouldn’t swim across a canal known for being filled with aggressive gators). Chances are we already know this sort of stuff firsthand, and possibly crazier stuff that didn’t make it to BuzzFeed or CNN — that’s just part of the odd charm of living in the nation’s penis.