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Friday, July 16, 2004 :::
F is for Florida and other things

Okay, now I'm convinced. The entire state of Florida has no redeeming qualities. This past weekend/week I "had" to go down to visit my grandparents. Fine, it'd been about 2 years since I had last saw them, but - and I mean this in the nicest, sweetest, favourite-granddaughterey type of way - can you blame me? Without getting into a long involved story which really would be of no interest to anyone, myself included, suffice it to say that they fully supported their daughter (55 years old) while she did some very, very bad things. Oh yeah, the other main reason I hate this state: my "aunt." I use quotation marks there for a reason: I've officially disowned her - the paperwork should be done soon.

Besides family, here are the main "draws" of Florida for those people who feel the need to vacation here: the sun. The sun is hot, and it sucks. It burns your skin, makes you thirsty, and your A/C bill is atrociously high. Plus, in some weird twlight-zoney type way, the sun is still shining brightly and hotly in the winter time. Let me repeat that - WINTER. So you're still sweating madly in December. No thank you.

The beach. Okay, fine. I concede that the ocean is in fact quite lovely. The waves crashing and all that. But when combined with the suckiness of the sun, the sand that always gets into your nether-regions SOMEHOW, and having to watch old greasy men walk around in hot pink speedos, the ocean really has nothing on the rest of the beach-going experience.
Palm trees. What the hell are these things anyway? They shouldn't be allowed to be called trees. Their classification should be something like "Shadeless stupidus." They are tall, lanky and they provide absolutely no shade whatsoever. I hate them.

Everything named after beach-realted objects and creatures. If I see another sign that reads: "Ocean View Way" or "The Sandy Pelican" or "Seahorse Daycare center" I'm going to puke. If I owned a house here that required signage, I would call my little slice of Florida "Snowball's Hell." I think people would get the point.

It's Bush-country down here. After reading all of these signs and successfully keeping down my chocolate chip pancakes from IHOP, I was pretty proud of myself. Then I foolishly looked up to read the sign that my mother's rented Kia slowly passed under "GEORGE BUSH BLVD." Oh god, up it comes.

The highways. Everything is white cement. It's ugly, perpetually dirty-looking - there's a REASON roads in normal places are black: cars are dirty and black hides the dirt! - and people either drive like foolish beach-bums in their top-down convertibles, or they drive like 80 year old men who had their license revoked 2 years ago but refuse to give up the freedom because it is the only joy in their sad, too-tanned lives. This is because everyone in Florida fits into one of these two categories.

I got a pretty horrible burn at the beach my first day there, but that was to be expected because my skin was as close to what neon-white would look like if neon-white was actually a colour that existed. I thought perhaps I was SO pale that the sun would simply reflect off of my skin, but apparently that didn't happen before it first made a pit-stop to cook me to a crisp. The funny thing (not ha-ha funny, but another-thing-to-add-to-my-list-of-why-I-hate-Floriday funny) was that my burn wasn't in a normal pattern. I swear to you, this burn looked like someone from that TLC channel took a look at my legs, said "oh, this won't do" and proceeded to take a wet rag dipped in red paint and rub it along my legs. The effect was nice, for walls. It looked as if I had a serious skin disease, or had perhaps contracted some sort of hideous rash. Either way, I was in a lot of pain, and because all of the stores in the entire state of Florida close at 6pm (yes, even the 24-hour Walgreens - I checked), I was unable to purchase any aloe-containing products and instead had to settle on a small container of Johnson's baby lotion purchased from the only place open - a HORRIBLY smelling convenience store. I think the store was called "Sun Stop." Puke.

Oh, and I didn't mention my mother's rental car. A lovely Kia Spectra or something. It looks fine from the outside, but I thought it was a bad sign when she had to lean over to unlock my car door from the inside. To my shock and horror, I found that not only did the car not have power locks, it also, somehow did not have power windows. The car had a CD player, but no power windows. Actually, in all honesty it was sort of cute at first - it brought back memories of when we actually had to work to get some fresh air - but the cuteness factor soon faded when we realized that either the car's antenna was missing or it never had one in the first place. At least we had a CD player, on which we could play all of the NO cds that I brought.

I spent a good chunk of the day with my grandparents on Monday. Well, 'good' chunk is really the wrong term. Bad chunk, very, very bad chunk. It's not really my grandparents who are the problem. Because they are my grandparents, I am required to like them and I do like them because if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here. Beyond that, they are seriously insane people. Not just the normal crazy stuff, but seriously insane stuff. My grandmother can't see, and my grandfather can't see or hear. Of course he refuses to wear hearing aids because that would mean he was giving in, that he was weak, and his glasses are his prescription from 22 years ago. Not exactly helpful. So in order to talk to him one must scream at unusually high levels - I tried: I saw Tom Ridge on the news he was "watching" and I said to him: "He came to my school to speak at graduation," trying to make small talk, chit-chat, with him. He just looked at me. I repeated myself, roaring to 4 decibels. "I can't hear you" was his aggitated response. So I tried again. Then I got up, went to his "good side" whatever that means and literally screamed into his ear. His response was "oh." Well, that was worth it. My grandmother lives in the past. She tells the same stories about the same 48 relatives over and over and over and over and over again, and my eyes glaze over and I start to hallucinate, but I nod and smile and say "oh, really!?" on the outside. She loves me better than my sister for some reason or another.

Tuesday afternoon I went with my mother to eat at 3Gs deli to meet up with her aunt. We were warned beforehand that this restaurant doesn't exactly cater to the younger crowd. I walked in and couldn't place the smell right away, but then I did: Chopped Liver and Old Person. 5 Old ladies sat around a large table talking about cribbage, and my mother, her aunt and myself were seated next to them. I counted 3 oxygen tanks and 5 walkers. One guy's oxygen tank sat in what looked like a tennis ball cage, and he happily wheeled it behind him, tennis balls on the feet of it so that it wouldn't scuff the floor. Well, maybe he wasn't happy, maybe he was just constipated.

After that I went "shopping" with my mother to Olde Village Towne Centre or something. In this strip mall there were 6 stores. One was a costume jewelry store full of plastic-beaded necklaces and broaches, whatever those are. One was "Glicks" (no apostrophe - AGH!) kosher supermarket, one was an optomistrist, there was a handbag store, a discount clothing store and a "bargain bin" store. First, my mother and I went into the discount clothing store where we were meeting her other aunt. I think my favourite rack in this store was one that contained neatly lined up polyester/nylon blend elastic pants, in various shades of tan, beige and off-white. Clearly there's a demand for them.

While my mother pawed through the other racks, hoping to find a gem of a deal, I decided to head over to the "Bargain Bin" store. I'm glad I did because now I know where every single grandparent in the entire state of Florida gets the candy that they put in their crystal candy dishes.  Oddly, although the store was full of candy, it still smelled like old people. Lining the 3 isles in "Bargain Bin" were large clear-plastic containers of everything from those strawberry-flavoured hard candies, the ones with the liquidy centers, whose wrappers are made to look like strawberries, to butterscotch (a must in every grandmother's candy dish), to rolled oats (?), to bagels and bialis to chocolate-covered raisins. One old lady budged in the door beside me, clearly with a goal in mind. She walked directly to the plastic bag dispenser, grabbed four bags and began filling them up with loose oatmeal. I can think of at least 40 other places I would buy oatmeal before this place, but apparently she was a regular there as the clerk smiled and waved and said "Hi Dolores" when she went up to pay for her prized oatmeal. That's another thing, all old people are named Dolores or Harvey or Thelma. Would you ever name your little baby girl Thelma? I would, but that's only because that's the kind of person I am - cruel, but hopefully in a mildly funny way. I texted my friend Annie on my cell phone, telling her about this strip mall and she warned me to get out before it was too late. Suddenly I realized - I was feeling a bit old. At that moment there was nothing I would have liked more than a nap and an early dinner.

I thought I would literally jump out of my skin when I got to the airport on Wednesday afternoon. I couldn't possibly wait another moment to get out of this state. My mother believes in getting to places way too early, but whatever. We arrived at the airport at 2pm for my 4:15 flight back to sanity and normal trees, and I find out that it's been delayed. Very delayed.  3pm passed, 4pm, 5pm passed. I kept looking over at the Southwest Ticket Attendent, sending her ESP messages to pick up the damn microphone thingy and tell us our plane is in range. Just pick it up... that's right, lift your arm.. your hand... that's right. I was begging her in my mind, pleading with her with my eyes to give me SOME good news. Finally at 5:15 she said it. Relief flooded into my body, puddling in my stomach.

As my plane lurched forward and took off, I looked out the window to see the hell I was leaving below. Dante's hell has nothing on Florida, I'm convinced of it. I mentally waved goodbye to the white cement everything, the strip malls, the stupid trees, the too-hot sun, and most of all, the old people and sat back in my faux-leather Southwest seat, took in a long, deep breath and relaxed.

::: posted by Robin at 12:24 AM

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