Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hurricanes we can handle, but cold? The natives are lost

I am in the grocery store asking without hope about those quick-light fire logs for my rarely used fireplace in this, the fiercest and most enduring cold snap a native-born cares to remember.

I say "without hope" because this is the third grocery store, not to mention the Walmart, Kmart and Target, at which shelves were brimming with charcoal briquettes in the unlikely chance of a backyard barbecue but emptied of logs as if locusts had come through.

A woman at my elbow wants to know, too, but, no, they have been out for days. The cashier helpfully adds that a store down the street has real firewood, if we're interested.

I look at the woman, she at me. Real firewood?

So how does that work, exactly? Something about rubbing sticks together. My time in Brownies, when we trooped to the woods and used a magnifying glass to start a spark, was a very long time ago, and anyhow, how would that work in a living room?

Around here, we may know the finer points of rigging a fishing pole or unhooking a pelican. We can survive sunburn, the sideswipe of a hurricane and the white-knuckle drive out of a vicious summer thunderstorm. We can shuffle through stingrays with nary a barb and endure Red Tide. But this?

The woman and I leave, both shaking our heads.

Another morning I am trying to figure out why I can't see through my car windshield when it hits me: Ice, actual ice, which may also be why the grass was crunchy. I am considering whether to get warm water to pour on it when an expat Northerner intervenes in horror, suggesting instead a credit card. (Nice to have so many of them around to instruct us, isn't it?)

Actually, it turns out to be handy, potentially disaster-averting advice. I scrape away the slush with an old gift card surely never intended for this purpose, from a place called Bahama Breeze.

At work, a colleague complains of gender inequity: Women bask in mysterious and foreign hats and scarves, gloves and knee-high boots. (I was relatively unfamiliar with the concept of an "earmuff," until I saw a purple pair on a woman passing me downtown even as my own ears turned red.) But Florida men, my colleague says, tend to be ill-prepared. His solution: layers on layers on layers of shirts, topped with the only coat he has ever needed, a thin, linerless raincoat.

Weather has sent our homeless scrambling for shelter, not to mention warm beverages and donated clothes from the good-hearted who empty their closets. On a street corner I see an array of sweat shirts and jackets: a Carolina Tar Heel, a Dale Jr., two Buccaneers and a Plant High Panther.

At home, our heater is like an elderly security guard who has long worked in a quiet building, only rarely called to action. Suddenly, he has found himself on the SWAT team, desperately huffing and puffing to keep up. The dog has taken to walking around with a fleece blanket draped over her ears, the Labrador version of Little Red Riding Hood.

Another morning, early, I am blowing on frozen hands as I drive past a Krispy Kreme, tantalizing smells wafting in through my rumbling heater vents. I look over into the inviting warmth of the diner and see two men huddled over steaming coffees, gloveless hands wrapped around cups. Both wear yellow rain slickers, though no rain is in sight.

I think, how Florida.

Hurricanes we can handle, but cold? The natives are lost 01/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 7, 2010 9:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer

    Nation

    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  2. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry

    Military

    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  3. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse

    National

    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]
  4. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  5. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan

    War

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]