Snowbirds, Damn Yankees and Traffic Jams
By Jake Jakubuwski
All Rights Reserved
I was reading some posts on Face Book the other day and one poster told another that he was almost ready to become a “Snowbird.” That is, he was going to retire to Florida as soon as he could get his money, IRAs and the IRS straightened out.
Being a former, twenty-plus year, resident of theSunshine State, I have a bit of knowledge about Snowbirds, in general. Damn Yankees, more specifically — and traffic jams created by both Snowbirds and Damn Yankees who either come to Florida for a vacation or they’re looking for a place to wait out the cold weather in New England, Canada, Detroit and Ohio — especially Ohio.
First off, a Snowbird is a Damn Yankee who is only vacationing, in Florida, any time between late September to about the middle of April or the first of May. Later, their plumage may change as they take up permanent residence in Florida.
Snowbirds, are a migratory North American species, who begin to show up on Florida (Particularly Southwest Florida. I lived inFt. Myers) highways just shortly before the first frost hits their northern home state or immediately after. They may come for a week, ten-days, a month or maybe even the entire winter. Some sub-species of Snowbirds migrate toLas Vegas, So. California, Arizona and other states that have mild winters.
You can easily spot them. They have Ohio (Or other foreign) license plates on their cars, drive with their foot on the brake and make sudden, unanticipated, turns into alligator farms, Indian souvenir shops and Denny’s. They also like shell shops, Tiki Huts and to tie up traffic on US 41 while rubbernecking at the orange groves or folks fishing in the roadside ditch or canal.
I’ve often wondered, as I followed a Snow Bird from North Ft. Myers to Punta Gorda, how much Sloan’s Liniment they’d have to use to get the “cricks” out of their necks after a hard day of rubbernecking
If you watch them driving along at a sedate 35 miles an hour (In a 65 MPH zone), you would think they were watching a mobile tennis match. Their heads are constantly swiveling from left to right. Left to right. Left to right. It’s almost mesmerizing to watch. Sometimes it was downright scary.
Depending on which side of the car, SUV, Motor Home or pickup truck they’re sitting on…their left or right hand and arm are getting a workout as they try to get the other Snowbird to look at the alligator on the side of the road, the dead snake in the fast lane or the gal cutting her grass in a bikini (Well, okay, so I looked at her too!). Stll, I can’t help but speculate about what keeps them from poking each other’s eyes out with all that random finger pointing.
It’s easy to spot them in WalMart. She’s wearing a shocking pink shorts and top ensemble with flip flops that have big daisies on the top of the strap and carrying a huge beach bag decorated with seashells and seahorses. Either that or she’s wearing a Mumu that contains enough material for a Boy Scout to make a good sized tent.
Usually it – the Mumu – has a floral pattern that reminds me of my grandmother’s old upholstered living room furniture with huge flowers all over it that she had covered with clear plastic covers. She, the Snowbird, still has the same beach bag. Did I mention the blue hair? Or, the paper fan from Flower’s Funeral Home?
Sometimes they’re not driving but riding three-wheel, adult bicycles. At various mobile home parks where so many of these Snowbirds nest, they actually decorate those bikes and have parades!
He, on the other hand, is wearing shorts and a nylon see-through shirt or a ribbed undershirt, with black over-the-calf socks and either tennis shoes or leather sandals. Some have on gold wristwatches and most have bad eyesight along with very white legs and extremely red, sun-burned faces. You even see some of the male Snowbirds pulling oxygen tanks and hurriedly puffing on a cigarette before they go into WalMart or Denny’s…
A Damn Yankee, on the other hand, is a Northerner who has decided to move to Florida for good.
Or at least until they’re called to their final reward.
A Damn Yankee may have been a dyed-in-the-wool Snow Bird at one time, but now he/she shakes her fists at the Snowbirds driving and sightseeing and making all those unanticipated stops at tourist attractions. And, generally making traffic a nightmare.
A Damn Yankee still dresses about the same as they did when they were Snowbirds but now they mostly have a good tan. If you get trapped into a conversation with a Damn Yankee, they will invariably tell you how much better things were inMinnesotawhere winter lasts longer then the gestation period of Homo Sapiens!
They also bemoan the fact that it’s too hot, the sun’s too bright and the air is too humid. Duh? You moved to the semi-tropics, right?
At least there is seldom any snow, ice storms, blizzards, and little need for Snow Emergency Routes, snow tires and darned few people drop dead from trying to dig their car out of a snow drift that’s about as high as the old Caloosahatchee Bridge.
Another complaint they have is that there is no ice fishing in Florida! The last time I was in Minnesota and went ice fishing; the only thing I caught was a cold! At least in Florida, I have caught BIG fish that I could eat without using an ice axe to clean them.
Some Damn Yankees, if they live in Florida long enough, begin to take on local coloration and the only way you can tell them from native “Crackers” is their accent, That, and the fact they still haven’t gotten over the novelty of eating on the patio, nearly all year around and drinking sweet tea. Another way is to watch them drive.
I have a friend in Florida who’s daddy homesteaded (Yeah! Really) a piece of property on Pine Island. As far as Mr. Starling was concerned a Damn Yankee was anyone who lived North of the Florida state line.
He even went so far to tell me, one time, that: “…them Damn Yankees from Pensacola….” I gently reminded him that Pensacola was in Florida. He opined that it shouldn’t be because the only thing that made it better then Southern Georgia was the beaches which were just one more place them Damn Yankees could tie up traffic and make life miserable for the native sons..
About twenty-five years ago, I moved to the Piedmont area of North Carolina. This is a great place to live except for all those Florida Crackers and Damn Yankees, from Florida, who come up here in the summertime and then want to tell me how much nicer the weather is in Florida.
I spoke to one the other day while we were waiting for a traffic jam to break up and I asked him where he was from. He said: “Florida, but I moved down there from Ohio about ten years ago. I shoulda stayed inOhio!” I agree — he should have. At the very least, he should have stayed in Florida.
In fact, I might still be living in Florida if the population hadn’t gone into overdrive and there were more Damn Yankees on the road then Crackers. Then, again, I think I’ve become acclimated to this area…I’ll most likely stay here until…
I liked Florida where the fishing was great and I didn’t have to explain why I talked funny. Here, that mostly happens when local folks say: “Y’all ain’t from around here, are you?” After twenty-five years, I’m beginning to blend in and like to think I’m learning to talk like the locals do…