It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a……snowbird! And just like that, our Northern friends are back among us. History and wisdom tell us this will happen, and we’re glad to see neighbors and golf buddies back in our neck of the woods. Some years it feels like they return in trickles.
You slowly feel your morning commute lengthening, and much like the cooler temperatures you desire, the growing crowds remind you of holidays, family, and year-end fun that will be coming. But this year it feels a little like an invasion. Everyone in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and the entire country of Canada have all hit Florida at once it seems. Forget waiting for the first snow or for Florida temperatures to subside. There’s no easing into this slowly, because……they’re back!
Estimates of just how many snowbirds call Florida home during the winter months are hard to track. For visitors from other regions of the United States, traffic logs are years behind, and most people utilize temporary housing. It is estimated that upwards of four million Canadian visitors head to Florida on a yearly basis. If you ask locals, they will tell you they don’t need statistics to determine how many more people are in the area. They need only look at the differences snowbirds cause in their daily lives to know they’ve returned. And don’t get me wrong, because living in Florida we understand tourism is a vital component to a thriving economy. We need the billions of dollars these folks spend in a manner equal to their incessant desire to escape their icy winters. If not for tourists and snowbirds, we’d be a state of magic kingdoms and exotic gardens empty but for that short time of year when locals get a discount and they, too, partake in the fun. We love you, snowbirds, and fully appreciate how imperative it is that you return each year. Let’s look at some of the ways locals are celebrating your arrival.
We’ve stopped eating. Well, really, just eating out at restaurants. Do you want to know why? Because you have all of the tables and parking spots. Sure, it seems like a good idea to leave the dinner cooking and dishes to somebody else, but after you have cruised the parking lot for over an hour waiting for just one car to leave, you realize a jaunt through a fast food drive-thru might be more appropriate. Note to self: Snowbirds are also early birds so if you want to eat dinner out, get there at lunch and hope for the best.
The roads are yours. No, really. When we look out at the sea of out-of-state license plates, we’re quite certain all of the Florida drivers have been sidelined. And feel free to tailgate if we’re going to slow; honk and hand gesture if we’re annoying you; and by all means, no turning signal is required. No worries if you want to drive slow, or actually stop in the road if you’re trying to locate your destination, we are full of patience and will just wait you out.
We will be advocating for better sun protection by staying away from the beaches and theme parks from now until Spring, so thank you for that. We know you are here for sun-and-fun and there is no way we will be getting in your way. Hours long lines and traffic jams heading into hot spots are all yours. As hotels are booked, ticket sales are up, and beaches are filling up, Floridians everywhere are preparing for staycations right in their own homes, where parking is less of a challenge.
We love you, snowbirds, we really do. Our reliance on your dollar is equivalent to a baby needing its mother. Without you, our grand state of Florida would fail to thrive. So we will welcome you with open arms and turn over our beaches, roads, restaurants and grocery stores. But being the petulant children that we are, we will “party like it’s 1999” when you leave, running with reckless abandon on our beaches, eating at our restaurants with glutinous intensity, and taking to our roads like a Porsche to the Autobahn. For now, though, we are hunkered down for a long winter’s nap. Wake us when you hit the Florida/Georgia line in April, please.
Photos: Snowbird courtesy of Nasha on Flickr, commercial use allowed, Crowd courtesy of Timothy J on Flickr, commercial use allowed, License plates photo- Deposit Photos