How many times I have seen another tropical storm, another hurricane, another tornado, and thought, how could this all be one state? If my sister’s apartment is flooding in Tallahassee, and the winds knock away a signpost, and carry it into my friend’s car, how could I be untouched in Jacksonville?
Sometimes it feels like an unmanageable divide: that someone from South Florida, or Central Florida, or the panhandle, could have nothing in common with a Jacksonville resident such as myself. But, I suppose, that itself is the glue, that no matter how estranged Miami is from Orlando, an unpredictability, that one morning is 39 degrees, and the next is 58, is what they share. Just a retention ponded, potholed gator fest, that’s what Florida is. Truly one of a kind.
Well, scratch that.
Florida isn’t that special.
Our state is more similar than not. Central, South and North Florida each feels unique, but isn’t. We are all at the whims of the water: lakes, rivers, swamps and the vast ocean. A tottering legacy of limestone that will eventually ebb back into the sea. None of us are too far from the coast, and our weather isn’t really special, or notable, it’s just a traceable pattern of air changing temperature as it moves on and off these bodies of water.
Don’t get me wrong. Florida is my home—my first love—and in my heart, it is a place I will always regard as unique. It is special, in some ways, from the eagles visible from the windows of the NASA tour bus to the spoonbills I see in the grocery store parking lot. Or, when it comes to weather, rain pelting the highway, while at home, one mile away, there’s a driveway that’s spotless, and a person waiting inside clueless of any storm.
But these things aren’t necessarily Florida-only. Even though we want to make ourselves, and therefore our community, stand out, Florida is only special in our hearts—not in comparison to the rest of the world.
We like to think of this place as more than it is. It’s not a buttcrack. It’s barely an armpit. Its heat is meager, and so are its drops in temperature, in comparison to literallyany desert (try Sudan, Libya, Iran, Ethiopia) or even Hawaii, who actually has no winter. And though we too switch between a wet and dry season, we at least have some semblance of an autumn, and hit cold fronts in later months.
Several places in Southeast Asia are more humid than Florida. In the US, Louisiana is the most humid state.
Based on temperature, precipitation and severe weather, the Upper Midwestis considered the most unpredictable area in America. Tornado Alley is prone to extremes. Though one could argue, no one cares about the Midwest, who lives in the Midwest? But that doesn’t change the fact that South Dakota and Montana are, according to National Geographic, objectively more spontaneous.
So why is it that the binding force of our state can still be the simple, fond statement that Florida is one of a kind? Florida Man is only famous because of lax privacy laws. Many dumb men have wrestled with gators, but it still makes the news when someone loses an arm to a the clamp of the strong, green jaw.
We have an odd panther, and some gators, but in other states turkeys, deer, bears and buffalo can line the streets. I have heard my friend from Australia complain that there’s a kangaroo in her backyard again. Rain showers are not local phenomena.
We are hot, but not the hottest; wet, but not the wettest; weird, but certainly not the weirdest. An alien would pass over us immediately if we didn’t have the space program.If I search “believing you’re special”on the internet, all that I can find are signs pointing to unhealthy, narcissistic behavior. A clear sign of some deep-rooted illness.
Maybe I’m no different. How many times have I paraded around a story of watching a storm roll in on the horizon, as if no one else could tell it?
Yet I will continue arriving home in a wet car, to a dry house, and telling the story of my drive: scattered thunderstorms, little showers that stop and start and stop and start again all the way home. Or I will listen, intently, as my friends tell me about the frost on their windshield this morning, just because to us it’s an event, and not some common, inconspicuous occurrence.
Publix is moving out of state, I have just seen one smack in the middle of Hendersonville, North Carolina, but it is still our thing. Sometimes there is harm in believing that you’re unique.
But, honestly, who cares?
Just because we’ve fabricated a glue to create a culture—one of water cooler talk, that the rain came, and the hot, Florida day dropped 20 degrees, and isn’t that so weird, even though it happens every summer?— doesn’t mean that, to us, it’s rendered useless.
Christmas decorations of Santa riding a flamingo in his favorite Hawaiian T-shirt are still funny, even if we’re far, far away from Hawaii, and our neighbors will end up with the same light-up palm trees and flamingos with elf shoes. We may not stand out, but I think, in the end, that’s not the point.
I would like to think it’s nice that we are not the only ones who can tell our story. It certainly will not stop me. I will continue to let my heart hold a belief separate from my head, and spin my own Florida yarns like there’s any one single person who hasn’t heard it before.
I drove home today, and the absolutely one hundred percent clear sky let loose sunny showers. Where did it come from? Isn’t that amazing? And my house shouldn’t be so separate from the sky rolling over the highway. That’s crazy.