With an average humidity index of 150,000 percent, Florida is by far our sweatiest state. That is why it is so attractive to old people, as the elderly, much like the dolphins they sound like, need to be kept moist in order to survive.
And there is no shortage of moistness in Florida. Sweet deadly monkeys in the fiery heavens above me, Florida is a moist, moist place. Immediately upon stepping off the airplane, one is engulfed in moistness. Even your retinas sweat. The driest a Floridian ever gets is when he is under water.
Fortunately, Florida is almost completely surrounded by oceans, gulfs and bays. This allows humans some respite from the relentless and punishing heat and dampness that permeate the air, tormenting the damned souls who find it their lot to live in that weather-forsaken wasteland.
But my point is, I had fun in Florida. I was in Clearwater, adjacent to Tampa Bay. If you drive around Clearwater for 10 minutes, you will find yourself unsurprised when you learn that it is the site of the first Hooters restaurant. It’s that kind of place. It is also home to a strip club called Mugs ‘n’ Jugs, which I initially wanted to visit only so I could tell people I’d been to a place called Mugs ‘n’ Jugs. (Fortunately, I learned after eating at Pancho & Lefty’s in St. George, Utah, that I should not patronize businesses simply because I think their names are funny. Besides, telling people I had been to Mugs ‘n’ Jugs probably would have raised more questions than it answered.)
The stereotype about Florida is that it is full of senior citizens. Having spent a few happy days in The Moistness State, I would now like to shed some light on this myth: It’s true. My friends and I were the youngest people there, by a good five decades. Everything in Florida is designed to be convenient for use by old people. For example, all the street signs are in large print, and city ordinances require that for every one T.G.I. Friday’s, there must be 11 Sizzlers. Clerks and salespersons have nametags that read “Honey” or “Young Man,” and the cars’ speedometers don’t go above 45.
I did not personally see any alligators in Florida, though I’m told they abound. In fact, it is not uncommon for them to dwell in small ponds near people’s houses, and old ladies’ pet dogs are often eaten by them. This makes me think of what will surely be a chapter title in my autobiography: “Alligators Eating Old Ladies’ Dogs: HOW GREAT IS THAT??!!” There is no amount of money I would not pay to see this happen. In fact, note to Mom (if she still reads this column): Next time I visit Florida, I’m taking your imbecilic chihuahuas with me.
At the opposite end of the things-I-want-to-see spectrum, we went to the beach. (I don’t mean “we” as in “the chihuahuas and I.” I mean it as in “my friends and I.”) It was a warm, moist day, so the beach was packed with people who, like me, were practicing the theory of attractiveness relativism. Basically, this means that no matter how unattractive you are in a swimsuit, you may feel comfortable as long as there is someone nearby who looks worse.
Now, since my shirtless torso looks like a hairy, jaundiced marshmallow, I tend to be self-conscious when surrounded by toned, tanned individuals. Fortunately, such were not to be found at the beach that day. It was Hairy Jaundiced Marshmallow Day, apparently, and many of the participants were in far worse condition than I. Thus, I strolled around proudly, confident in the knowledge that relatively speaking, I was gorgeous. (I’m not sure how the person who actually IS the worst-looking person on the beach feels. I wanted to ask her — she was the pot-bellied, gelatinous woman who wore a string bikini, thus bringing shame and degradation to all mankind — but I couldn’t work up the nerve.)
So for dank, sultry fun in the sun, visit the retirement community of Florida. Don’t forget to bring your towel and your gator-beatin’ stick.
You'll notice I did not mention the names of the friends I was visiting in Florida. This is because they never read the column anyway, so they don't deserve a shout-out.
The parenthetical remark in the next-to-last paragraph, about the woman on the beach, was extraordinarily difficult to write. I had three concepts to express: She had a pot belly, she was wearing a bikini, and she brought shame and degradation to all mankind. I knew the shame thing had to come last, but the phrasing of the rest was hard because it's not easy to say that someone HAD a pot belly and WAS WEARING a bikini. "Had" and "was wearing" are different things. You can't just say "she was the one with the pot belly and the bikini," because that doesn't make it clear she was WEARING the bikini. Maybe she just had it with her (which would have been better than wearing it). I probably phrased the sentence seven different ways before finally hitting on the one that pleased me.
My editor added one word for publication: In the first paragraph, he made it say "as the elderly there," instead of just "as the elderly." He wanted to suggest that I was only making fun of the old people "there" (in Florida), and not all old people, and thus prevent a few angry phone calls from the Provo elderly. I told him I didn't think it would work, but to go ahead and try.
A word I should have used in the column: soggy.