Retiring to Florida?
Beware of things that slither, croak, rumble and turn inside-out. Otherwise, it’s truly paradise.
Despite the warning of my executive editor when I left the newspaper to move here 19 years ago this summer, I have not been eaten by an alligator. His woeful prediction is forever preserved at the top of this mock Page One that my creative newsroom staff—quite the pranksters—presented to me at my going-away party:
Aged? Ha! All of 49 then, I grabbed an opportunity to move to Florida before retirement, when many seniors flee cold climates. Now, however, I am a 65-plus statistic, nearly 20 percent of all the people in the state. And over the past two decades, I’ve learned how to cope in this land of reptiles and thunderstorms.
My top 10 list for living in Florida:
- Housework and errands can wait. Going to the beach after doing chores often means getting there as the sky turns black and thunder booms. Forget anything negative about immediate gratification in this case.
- When exiting the front door, open it a couple of inches and slam it shut at least three times. This scares away lizards that may be lounging in the decorative wreath and snakes that may be sunning on the step.
- Before bringing a newspaper inside, shake the plastic bag to dislodge baby frogs that may have crawled inside.
- Forego umbrellas for rain jackets or ponchos. Umbrellas turn inside-out in torrential rainstorms. Gentle showers are rare.
- Wearing white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day is not the horrible fashion faux pas your mother said it is. Sunshine beckons white. But truthfully, I’m still too hung-up on that tradition to stretch it much beyond those holidays.
- Don’t walk barefoot in grass. Fire ant stings really hurt. Plus, Florida’s sod is scratchy compared to Pennsylvania’s silk.
- If lizards can get in, they usually can get out. If not, trap them in a solo cup using a flat piece of cardboard. Toss the whole thing outside then retrieve the “lizard catcher” after the reptile is long gone.
- Those humongous hard-shelled roaches don’t really want to be in the bathtub. Or anywhere in the house. They are lost. They don’t have families in the woodwork. Avoid them and they’ll eventually disappear.
- Keep clean sheets on the guestroom bed. You get a lot of company, which is one of my favorite things about living in Florida.
- Cute little palm trees can grow into monsters. Somewhat scary, my front yard “monster palm” dwarfs my house.
If you’re among the more than 200,000 newcomers expected in our state this year—retired or not—also know that Florida is a great place to make memories and friends. If you’ve followed the sun, you’ve found it. In Northeast Florida, where I live, it gets chilly enough to have seasons and frost. But as long as I don’t have to scrape or shovel anything, I’ll take it.