Each corner of the globe has its own unique weather phenomenon. Florida has a few, the results of its placement in the middle of two major bodies of water. Anyone who has lived here for a few years will have realized that, beginning in about mid-Spring, the afternoon rains begin and with them comes a host of benefits, some even comical. Most of the inland residents of the Tampa Bay area converge on the coastal beaches for at least a few days every summer. It’s a long-standing tradition, documented by boxes and boxes full of images from as far back as the old Brownie days. For the luckier and perhaps more well-to-do among us, there might even be some Super 8 reels of skinny, sun-kissed boys and girls playing cork ball and building sand castles while sand pines, rather than high rises, still lined Gulf Boulevard.
You see, there are things about Florida summers that we know are utterly predictable, the afternoon rains being the most welcomed for us. As a public service, here is a list of things that you should understand about Florida summers, especially on the Gulf coast:
1) Those of us that are native to the area know that between 4pm and 6pm, the Florida sky is going to open with what tourists swear is the wrath of God, providing a much needed, near-daily drenching. For those of you not familiar with the phenomenon, rest assured that at that time of day, if you see people rise from their lounge chairs and leave their tents and other beach paraphernalia on the sand, it’s time for you to head for shelter. We retreat to our condos or beach houses and watch, laughing hysterically, at the tourists who, yet unfamiliar with our strange summer weather, scramble to deconstruct their miniature tent homes, gather all of their belongings and drag them back to their condos, only to find that as soon as they’ve reached their shelters, the rain has stopped, the air has cooled twenty degrees and the natives are casually returning to their chairs.
2) It’s hotter and YES, it’s because it’s wet. Florida has ridiculous humidity. That means everything you wear will stick to you and you will sweat as though you are running a marathon. Stop complaining. That’s just the way it is.
3) Spraying sunblock is ridiculous because (a) it’s toxic to the environment and (b) thanks to the gulf breezes, only about 20% actually makes it onto your soon-to-be crimson skin. Suck it up and use the good stuff. You’ll thank us later.
4) Yes, there is such a thing as sun poisoning and YES, you can get sunburn in and around your eyes. The sand here is WHITE and therefore very reflective. Your lily-white behind is going to burn from the top and bottom. Your feet will burn. Your scalp will burn through your hair. Listen to the natives. We know of what we speak.
5) That hell-fire and brimstone looking storm that you think is a hurricane is only going to last about 45 minutes. In fact, there is a chance you’ll be able to watch the whole thing from your tent on the beach because they don’t always make land fall. When you see the natives move, do as they do. Do not panic. It’s just rain.
6) HOWEVER, if you see us natives take down a tent, that means you should, too. We are the lightning capital of the world. We can tell when the afternoon rains will include lightning. Again, just follow the natives.
7) Research the Stingray Shuffle. It’s an important part of your Florida Summer Tool Bag.
8) If you are stupid enough to fall asleep in the sun, especially after drinking, we are going to laugh at you. You think that getting burnt in Florida is like getting burnt anywhere else. You think the “Florida burn” is a myth. You ARE WRONG. Just to drive the point home, as it bears repeating, Florida beaches are giant reflectors.
9) There is no such thing as a base tan. Refer to item number 8.
10) Our turtles and our sea oats are protected. Don’t mess with them.
11) Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, if you are stupid enough to feed the seagulls, we are not going to help you when fifty of the sea rats converge on your tent. In fact, we’re going to laugh some more, unless you’re right next to one of us, in which case we might empty our ice chests on your towels. Feeding Florida sea gulls is a giant no-no for two very important reasons, (a) they are highly opportunistic and will instantly raise the alarm for all other sea gulls to come from within ear shot because they’ve found willing victims and (b) Cheetos are just as bad for them as they are for us.
Now, if you’ve been to our fair state before, then you may have learned some of these lessons the hard way. Congratulations, you’ve graduated. As a bonus, I have two words for you, “Candy Kitchen”. For that, you will thank me most.