Snowbirds are now flying back to their northern nests. This means that we have survived our very first invasion. We noticed the change almost immediately as soon as April 1st arrived, with the entrance and circular road of our community being much less hectic. As the Easter and Passover holidays both started and ended, we also observed the local boulevards, shopping centers, and restaurants suddenly becoming less congested. A very friendly woman from Canada who owns the condo unit above us, was packing her car yesterday in preparation to drive back home early this morning. Our oceanside community is once again slowing down and becoming slightly less frenetic.
It is admittedly a little cavalier for me to be displaying relief about the departure of the snowbirds with only one Florida ‘season’ under my belt. Perhaps in later years I can begin to exhibit a Daisy Buchanan-style irreverence on the fatalistic change to our lives from their annual invasion. At the moment though, my observations are a touch contrived.
The majority of short-term winter visitors who come to Florida are from the Northeast, and sometimes it feels as if all of them are from New Jersey or New York. Of course that’s not literally true because we see plenty of license plates from Virginia, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, et. al. Nevertheless, it is people from New York and New Jersey who seem to be, well, more conspicuous. Collectively they offer a different kind of spirited fellowship to quiet communities such as the kind in which we now live. For someone like Gorgeous, who spent so many years on a rural Michigan farm, it’s been an eye-opening experience.
If I appear to be parsing my words or being politically correct in a kind of disingenuous manner, it’s merely because I am genuinely conflicted when it comes to these good people from New Jersey and New York. They are colorful, sharp, forthright, bright, and display a resilience that is utterly commendable. These are, after all, people who so valiantly and courageously soldiered on after the attacks on 9/11. A nation continues to admire them for their stiff upper lip.
But these are folk who are also opinionated, loud, pushy, and sometimes very rude. Am I generalizing here? Absolutely. Am I a bit sweeping and unfair? Yep, guilty as charged. But, not fuh nuttin,’ I’m telling you this because it still needs to be said, capishe?
For two years, after moving from Michigan to Washington, DC, I lived in a group house with a bunch of law students, every single one of them either a New Yorker or a New Jerseyite. That I was neither studying law nor from their region made me a bit of a novelty in that home. I recall absolute shouting matches with fiery bravado about Ringo Starr vs. Charlie Watts being a better drummer, or the ludicrous and never-ending debate on Jersey or New York having better pizza (answers: Ringo Starr gets my nod, and both pizzas are equally great).
My ex-wife is a New Yorker, though all of her step-siblings — each of whom hail from all five boroughs plus Long Island — were always quick to point out that she was raised in Port Chester and therefore her pedigree is somewhat diminished because of that. It took her a good while after we were engaged to get the nerve up to take me back home and introduce everyone to me. Indeed, it was quite an experience on that first visit, and truly for the rest of our marriage, to encounter first-hand the dynamic of people screaming at one another and not actually being mad. Cynics might scoff and point out that most ethnic families — Italians, Irish, Hispanics — also yell at each other as a way of communicating and showing affection. That may be true, but nothing can come close to a New York or New Jersey family — ethnic or not — for sheer volume and bluster.
By the time I moved here to Florida, I had long gotten used to being around New Yorkers and New Jerseyites. For Gorgeous, however, it has taken some getting used to. From the cutting off with a grocery cart in the produce aisle, to the excessively loud demand at the doctor’s office that a copy of an x-ray also be sent to a family doctor “back home,” it’s been a strange new cultural experience for her. I’m holding my breath for one of these upcoming seasons when one will come to her for an in-person reading and she’ll hear a shrill, “THAT DOESN’T SOUND LIKE MY AUNT ROSE AT ALL! ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE NOT CONFUSING HER WITH MY LATE NEIGHBOR, MRS. HENDRICKS? YOU’RE SEEING STRINGY HAIR, RIGHT?!” Gorgeous does all of her work with a near-whisper, so this will be an interesting dynamic should it actually happen.
Floridians have an absolute love/hate relationship with the snowbirds. For three to four months a year, they pump millions of dollars into the economy with restaurants, shops, and other businesses deriving a majority of their annual profits from those months alone. As December and January approach, there is a collective bracing and sucking in of the breath, as permanent residents prepare for the onset of the maddening crowd. Beaches, movie theaters, and parking lots all fill up fast. Doctor office waiting rooms become miniaturized replicas of Grand Central Station, and the friendly, deliberative internist you saw only three months prior is now rushing in/out of the examination room in order to keep up with all the patients she has to see that day.
And then April… come she will, changes everything back again.
For the next eight months, as high humidity and hurricanes become our only focus, we will enjoy the relative calm of ample shopping center parking and having an elliptical available at the gym again. The beaches will be less crowded and vacant stools once more will be a possibility at the bar. Most important, by this time next year I will be a veteran of having endured two snowbird seasons. I get to be less cavalier with each passing year. Permanent residency has its privileges.