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Thursday, February 2, 2012

FLORIDA IN WINTER TIME

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I remember when I was moving to Florida years ago, my in-laws in Ohio warned me, "You're going to miss the change of seasons." It's been 27 years since then and, so far, so good. No, I do not miss the change of seasons and frankly, the mere thought of going back into the snow belt gives me the shivers. Keep in mind, I lived in the north most of my life and survived the great snow of 1967 in Chicago, but enough is enough. Also, this is not about boasting how the Sunshine State has a better climate than the northern states. I learned a long time ago that Florida is not for everyone and, as such, you must be mentally prepared to move down here. Life is certainly different.

While northerners are shoveling snow, we're still mowing our lawns in Florida. True, the grass slows down a bit in terms of growth, but it still needs to be manicured. My northern friends tell me they relish the time off from yard work. While they're hibernating indoors, I prefer to be outdoors. Floridians tend to become claustrophobic if they cannot go outside. Some go to the beaches and parks, but mostly we leave that to the tourists who invade our state during the winter months. If you've got a boat though, you are probably out in it on the weekends enjoying the sunshine and some fishing. Golf, tennis, softball, and trapshooting are favorite pastimes as well this time of year.

During the winter, our temperature usually hovers in the 70's during the day which is quite comfortable. The 60's are considered "cool," 50's are "cold," and anything else is freezing. Now and then, a blast of Arctic air pushes down from Canada thereby driving temperatures below freezing. This is obviously dangerous to our crops and other plant life. To protect the plants, it is common to cover them with old bed sheets and blankets which looks rather comical if you're not from Florida. Plant life on lawns are dutifully "bedded" down for the night with an assortment of coverings which seem to be better suited for Christmas than anything else. If you do not cover your plants, you will undoubtedly lose them and be forced to replant new ones in the Spring, at a substantial cost I might add. It may look silly but it is worth it.

When you move to Florida, your blood begins to thin out thereby making it easier for you to withstand the summer heat. However, as a byproduct, you become less tolerant of the cold. To illustrate, when I first moved to Florida I built a house with a pool. As the project was coming to its conclusion in April, I remember talking to my contractor as we watched my pool filling up with water. I mentioned I was delighted to see the pool completed and looked forward to jumping in it as soon as it was filled. He looked at me incredulously and warned me the temperature of the water would only be in the 70's. I replied that Yes, I was aware of the temperature and said, "Won't that be perfect?" He just laughed and walked away shaking his head in disbelief. After I acclimated to the Florida temperatures I began to understand why he shook his head. Today, I won't go into the water unless it is, at the very least, in the 80's; the 90's would be even better. Such is what happens to your system when you move to Florida.

The most noticeable change to natives here is the substantial increase of motorists on the roadways. November marks the beginning of the snowbird migration. This is where northerners, predominantly retirees, begin to make their annual trek down here to Florida. Sure, their money is nice for our economy but we have to contend with some God-awful drivers. There are New Yorkers in SUV's who think they own the road, people from Ontario who believe they are always driving in a school zone, and others from the Midwest who are just plain lost. This disparity in driving styles results in a lot of stop-and-go traffic where drivers are forced to constantly switch between the peddle and brake. It sure would be nice if we had a national driving standard instead. Following the Spring baseball season and college breaks in March, the snowbirds pack up their gear and begin their migration back to the north. I-75, the main artery through western Florida is clogged beyond belief. Floridians know to avoid it like the plague.

Then there is the problem of the many dialects we hear during the winter months from the snowbirds. In addition to British and German accents, there is of course the Canadian, "Eh?"; the Minnesota "Don-cha-know?" and "Yah!"; and of course the New York "How ya doin?" By the time the tourists finally leave, Floridian speech patterns have been disrupted beyond comprehension. Thank God, we don't get too many Russians down here, otherwise we would all be saying "Nyet!"

With the onslaught of snowbirds, restaurants become clogged, particularly at 4:30pm when "early bird" specials begin. If you are a Floridian, you learn to eat later during this time of the year. You also learn to avoid "all-you-can-eat" specials as the Canadians swoop in like vultures and God help anyone who gets in their way.

Contrary to what my in-laws warned me, we do have a change of seasons down here in Florida. It is quite subtle but you do indeed notice it. The Spring is marked by the smell of orange blossoms. Summer is, of course, hot but it is something Floridians are accustomed to. Just about any true Floridian would rather take the sweat of summer heat over the bone chilling winter cold as experienced up north. Summer also marks the start of hurricane season which is something we're mindful of and prepare ourselves accordingly. October normally denotes the beginning of Autumn down here and my favorite time of the year as the weather is simply perfect.

Yes, we do indeed notice the change of seasons in Florida. We just don't have that God-awful weather up north. Although we may grouse about the snowbirds invading our territory, we are mindful they play an important role in our economy and, as such, try to make them feel at home. However, when April comes we cannot wait to wish them "Bon Voyage" and reclaim what is rightfully ours. There's only one problem, year after year, more and more snowbirds refuse to go home and elect to stay behind. Maybe it's time for a little prodding.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.