Monday, June 17, 2013

Some Observations About Florida

Today is Monday, June 17, 2013.

I'll be leaving Florida tomorrow, so I guess it's time for me to write about some of my impressions of the Sunshine Sate.  For one thing, I learned that the Sabal Palm (pictured) is the state tree of Florida.  They're all over the place.  There are lots of other interesting trees that I've never seen anywhere else, and the greenery and flowers grow in profusion here.

Although it's called the Sunshine State, it has rained at least once every day I've been here.  The rain generally doesn't last long, but it sure does come down hard.  They had so much rain before I came that down in Miami the powers that be put a "boil only" policy in place for the city - the water was contaminated by the flooding.  The vast, vast majority of people drank bottled water, but they also cooked and washed their hands with it.  I used bottled water to wash my wounds, as well, out of an abundance of caution.

It's true that most Floridians have easy access to a pool of some kind, if not to the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, but once again I have not been able to take advantage of this, even though I was careful to bring my swimming suit on this trip.

Like a lot of cities near water, Tampa and Miami seem kind of squished into a small space right by the water  This makes driving a challenge, because the roads are narrow and irregular, instead of being laid out in a neat grid pattern, as they are in the Midwest.  One thing that helps with driving is these little green signs that tell what the next major intersection is called.  Whoever thought of doing this is a genius.  Maybe it's just that there are so many people from other places driving in Florida that they put the signs up for the convenience of visitors.  It's a great idea, no matter why they did it.

Another interesting fact: On the way down to Miami, I kept seeing these electronic signs saying "SILVER ALERT" and posting information about the make, model, color and license number of a certain car.  I thought I was supposed to watch out for someone trying to evade police, but one of my friends explained to me that a "silver alert" is when an older person who tends to be forgetful takes off in a car.  Since Florida is a destination of choice for many retirees, this does make sense.  I wonder how many other states could benefit from a "silver alert"?

All over the USA, "roundabouts" are being built at intersections that were four-way stops.  I saw how they worked in Australia, where they have them everywhere, and I marveled at how quickly the Aussie drivers decided who should proceed next.  Here in the US, even in Florida, the roundabouts are not located in busy intersections, so there is usually only one car in the roundabout at a time.

The thing that struck me the most about Florida, this trip, was the security in buildings and the gated communities.  My Tampa friend's apartment has a locked metal grate door.  I guess it's really no different than the electronically locked glass security door in my own apartment building, but the grated gates can also be found inside garages so that nobody can walk from the garage into an apartment building without knowing how to disarm the lock.  The grated gates make me think of cages, and that gives me a "jail" feeling.  There are a lot of "gated communities" in Florida, as well, that give one a feeling of "us versus them."  You can see how that mentality plays out in the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, where people are allowed to use firearms to protect their property.  We have that in South Dakota, too, but I don't see so many gated communities up north.  The trial of George Zimmerman, who is accused of shooting black teenager Trayvon Martin is bringing this whole issue into the national consciousness these days.

At the hospital where my friend's daughter was having her baby, I had to pass inspection by no fewer than three security guards, and I wore a printed name tag.  

One other thing I noticed about people in Miami is that they refer to "Miami Time."  I've heard people talk about "African Time" as well.  If you are on "Miami Time," you arrive late to a function. Maybe it's the heat that leads to a more lethargic lifestyle, I don't know...

I've already commented on the heat and humidity, which make it harder to breathe.  I also noticed that they were warning of vary high UV radiation during the day, so I'm glad I didn't go out that much during daylight hours. 

From time to time I've had thoughts of moving down to Florida to be with friends, but it appears that it might be pretty expensive for me to live here, and that, with my health issues, it might be better to stay where I am.  Florida is a wonderful place and I enjoy visiting, but I guess I really wouldn't want to live here. :-)

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