1. Archive

But did Ivan eat anyone's homework?

So it turns out that hurricanes are good for something. Excuses.

Admit it: Any time during the past six weeks you showed up late for work, snapped at your neighbor or suffered through a really bad hair day, you could blame it on Charley, Frances, Ivan or Jeanne.

Here's an unofficial list of hurricane excuses we heard during this storm season. Clip and save: Hurricane season isn't over until Nov. 30.

I can't ride the Exercycle because of the hurricane.

"They can't get here or it's too hot," said Harry Smith, recounting some of the comments he heard from people who weren't working out at Smith Health Club in Tampa. His normal clientele of 200 to 300 a day dropped to fewer than 20 after Jeanne. He had lost power and therefore air conditioning and lights. As excuses go, that's pretty good. On Wednesday, with power restored, the workout crowd returned and "every

one's got at least a smile on their face," Smith said.

I can't get Mama's diamond ring out of hock because of the hurricane.

"Buddy, we've heard a lot of them," said Mike Robey, owner of 49th Street Pawn & Gun in Pinellas Park. People have said they couldn't afford to redeem pawned goods because: They can't work because their places of business lost power; all the food in the refrigerator was ruined; all their cash went to pay a tree guy. Robey said he's working with his clients. "I just went ahead and added an extra week to everybody."

I had to go to the liquor store because of the hurricane.

Liquor stores got busy right before each storm. The reason? Loyal customers knew the stores might close, so they stocked up on critical supplies. "You don't just need batteries and canned soup," said Bob Gibson, director of marketing for the ABC Fine Wine and Spirits chain, based in Orlando.

My hair now resembles a rapidly intensifying tropical storm because of the hurricane.

Lots of people canceled hair appointments. Some ran short on cash. Some didn't want the kids traipsing along while school was closed unexpectedly. A frequent reason was "trees are down blocking people's driveways, they're just not going to be able to make it," said Kim Campbell, receptionist for the Daniel E. George Salon in the Carrollwood area.

I can't pay my water bill because . . .

At the Pinellas County Utilities Department, that's all customer service representatives needed to hear. They have been granting extensions on bills all week, even to customers who didn't mention hurricane damage. The department decided "we're not going to add any more stress" to people coping with the aftermath of Jeanne. Starting Monday, the regular collection schedule resumes and excuses will just be excuses.

I can't keep up with the presidential election because of the hurricanes.

Both presidential campaigns are nervous about this possibility, because less interest would mean lower voter turnout in the state that decided (with help from the U.S. Supreme Court) the 2000 presidential election. Tonya Thomas, 43, a cashier from St. Petersburg, said the procession of storms has distracted her from politics.

"I've not been listening to much about Kerry and Bush," she said.

I am no longer smart enough to come in from the rain, because of the hurricane.

During Jeanne, Wayne Shelor had to help a friend in Palm Harbor whose roof had just gotten smashed by a tree. He was amazed to see so many people cheerfully driving around, apparently sightseeing in the middle of the maelstrom.

"Common sense would tell you they had no business being out in that kind of storm with trees being split, toppled and felled," said Shelor, whose day job is serving as a Clearwater Police Department spokesman.

"They just smiled and said, "Isn't this invigorating?' Yeah. But it's not particularly intelligent."