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Sorry to winter storm people, but Florida is chilling
Our own problems are aplenty, so let’s be thankful for this balmy paradise.
Kiteboarder Brendan Manteiga, 24, of Clearwater, launches into a flip off Sunset Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Tarpon Springs.
Kiteboarder Brendan Manteiga, 24, of Clearwater, launches into a flip off Sunset Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Tarpon Springs. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Feb. 17
Updated Feb. 17

This is the moment, Floridians, to appreciate what we have. Stop what you’re doing and step outside. Actually, wait until the end of this column, then step outside. Unless you’re on your phone, in which case, go for it, but watch out for cars and celebrities on boats.

Great, now that everyone is safe, let’s explore our good fortune. This week, Tampa Bay’s temperature has been in the 70s and 80s. Rainy and cloudy in spots, but that gives way to breezes and sunshine. Maybe you had Monday off to … celebrate … what was it? Oh, presidents, yes. That meant walks, maybe kayaking, sitting on porches and pondering … presidents.

Not so in the rest of the country. The nation’s heat map looks like a skating rink with a small supply closet on fire (us). Half of America is under cold weather advisories, including Texas, where a brutal winter storm caused severe power outages. It was minus 26 degrees in Sioux Falls on Monday. You could practically store the coronavirus vaccine on the patio with the Bud Lights.

A lot of us in Florida are from somewhere else and are thinking of friends in dreadful situations. But if being at the beach seems braggy, consider the toil of being from here the rest of the time. Floridians are contractually obligated to spend 64 percent of their lives defending the state, and 30 percent complaining about the state. That leaves 5 percent for being genuinely happy with the state, with a 1 percent margin of error where it concerns avocado tequila.

We are in the 5 percent window, the paradise everyone chases. This is why tourists listen to the timeshare presentation in the lobby. This is why Grandma sent Grandpa “away” to get fixed by the sun. Late winter is crisp mornings, velvety afternoons, and happy waves for neighbors you previously considered reporting via the anonymous tip line.

Don’t worry, Chicago. Fear not, Cleveland. Our smug attitude won’t last. Soon enough, it will be 97 degrees at 7 a.m., and we will no longer be able to do things such as wear light colors or walk to the mailbox. Our eyelashes will fuse together. We will smell ... not good.

Our own spectacular environmental and weather disasters will return, probably worse! We will be held hostage by swirling systems in the ocean from June through November. Let’s not even get into the coastline; one existential crisis is plenty for the day.

That day is not today. That day is over there, hiding behind a curtain. That day’s feet are sticking out like Michael Myers, and we will worry about that later! Does anyone have a coat hanger?

Go outside. Breathe. Swirl around your yard, arms wide like Julie Andrews on a hill in Salzburg, if Salzburg had palm trees. But don’t delay. This contentment is a limited-time opportunity, and it’s going fast.

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes

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