(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
They began to trickle back into the area in early October, but now the migration is in full bloom with the various trailer courts filling up down here in Florida. I am, of course, talking about "Snowbirds," retirees who are escaping the chilly north in favor of a warmer climate for the winter. We rely on the snowbirds heavily as they greatly support our economy through tourism. They may clog the roads and restaurants, speak with some strange dialects, but we welcome them warmly this time of year ("Don-cha-know").
When the Snowbirds arrive, native Floridians typically drive to work a little earlier, and expect to eat at a restaurant a little later than normal, all to give the tourists ample time to enjoy themselves. The only problem we have with them is their varying driving habits. How someone from Michigan drives is considerably different than someone from New York, which is different than someone from Maine, Ohio, and just about anywhere else. It's very exasperating to drive under such conditions which tests our patience.
The trademark of the Snowbird is, of course, the Recreational Vehicle (RV) which comes in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and costs. Whatever the size, they somehow manage to clog the roads and Walmart parking lots. I'm always amazed by owners of opulent RV's who do not have another form of transportation, such as a bicycle, motor scooter, or automobile. They have to do a lot of walking otherwise. Close to our office is a trailer court where I've seen a Snowbird with a state-of-the-art bus-length RV which includes a tow hitch to pull an equally impressive trailer. Inside the trailer are two beautiful motorcycles and a complete shop to maintain them. Although I consider it a rather smart setup, I would be concerned with driving such "Hogs" down here which can be a rather dangerous proposition.
Over the years I have learned there are RV groups who enjoy traveling in "caravans" throughout North America, and Florida gets more than their fair share this time of year. A caravan is nothing more than a group of friends who travel together as a support group on outings. The first RV in line is considered the "Wagon Master" to lead the group. Somehow the image of Gil Favor leading a cattle drive in "Rawhide" comes to mind. The last RV in line is called the "Tail Gunner" which is reminiscent of a B-17 Flying Fortress. Such caravans represent considerable money to trailer park owners and, as such, they are warmly received.
Although you can easily detect snowbirds by their vernacular, you can just as easily spot them by their attitude which borders on pompous arrogance. Coming from the north, they somehow believe southerners are rubes who know nothing, that only northerners know how things should be done. As a displaced northerner myself who settled here many years ago, I am acutely aware of the cultural divide. I have learned Southerners know plenty, they just express themselves differently than their northern counterparts. They may seem rather cold initially, but if you are kind and open to suggestion, they make you feel right at home. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the food of the south who enjoy such things as grits, different interpretations of barbecue, and such oddities as crawdads and deep fried turkey. Northerners simply do not understand southern cuisine. Then again, it took them about 100 years to learn to appreciate southern fried chicken.
Quite often you will hear snowbirds lament, "That's not how we do it back home." Maybe not, but you are not in the north anymore and you have to learn to acclimate to the local culture. This begins by losing the stuffy northern attitude, relaxing, and learning to enjoy southern hospitality. Welcome Y'all!
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.
Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.