A week or so ago, I started writing this post. It was going to be some jokey thing about how crazy news stories always seem to happen in Florida … and how all those crazy stories can be blamed on Northerners’ genetic sensitivity to the Southern climate.
It was going to start off something like this:
“Just yesterday, I saw this news headline: ‘Drunken Grandparents Arrested for Pulling Child Behind SUV in Toy Car.’ Before I even read the story, I was pretty sure where the event had taken place. I read on. “According to Sarasota police…” There it was. If there’s a crazy story in the news — not just quirky or violent or inhumane, I mean certifiably batsquat crazy — there’s a 95% chance it happened in Florida. And 95% of the time, those crazy Florida stories happened somewhere south of Tallahassee.
There’s a reason for that: the Florida peninsula is not part of the South. Sure, it’s geographically farther South than any other part of the country. And yes, it is still technically part of the Southern state of Florida. (For you scoffers, they were, after all, part of the confederacy — the ultimate litmus test of Southern statehood.) But thanks to a steel magnate named Henry Flagler, that part of Florida has been culturally Northern for at least a century.”
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the “Publish” button. And by funny I mean horrific. And by horrific, I mean something right out of your worst post-apocalyptic nightmares. Police in Miami found a naked man feasting on another man’s face!
You’ve all heard the stories by now, I’m sure. Conspiracy theories are running amok about this being the start of a “zombie apocalypse.” Those theories point to some other odd stories coming out of South Florida in recent weeks:
- May 17 – A dozen students and two teachers at MacArthur High School in Hollywood, Florida contract a sudden and itchy rash on their arms and torsos as they entered a reading room. Hazmat teams decontaminate the victims and transport them to a secure area in a local hospital. No immediate cause is found.
- May 19 – An unknown chemical is released in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Int’l Airport. Five people are taken to the hospital with respiratory issues.
- May 24 – Two students and a teacher develop itchy, red rashes. The school is placed on lockdown, and hazmat teams respond.
- May 25 – An American Airlines passenger, upon landing in Miami, becomes all weird and violent. Fellow passengers subdue the man, who had no history of this type of behavior.
- That same day, hazmat teams are called to yet another school, this time an elementary school in Minneola. Twenty-seven students and adults on a bus complain of feeling ill.
- Again on May 25, a doctor is pulled over in Central Florida for drunken driving and bangs his head in the back of the police car until he bleeds profusely and spits a mouthful of blood on the arresting officer.
- May 26 – The zombie attack.
And I’m sticking with my original theory: the displaced Northerners who make up most of the Florida peninsula’s population are simply not genetically capable of handling the heat and humidity of the Deep South.
Think about it. People who move to the U.S. from Scandinavia settle where? The upper Midwest. Why? Because it feels like home: bitterly cold winters, mild summers, Great Lakes in place of fjords and oodles of cheese and disgusting fish dishes. (Okay the cheese and rotten fish followed them to the region, but you get the idea.) Growing up in Mobile, I saw a huge influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia in the ’70s and ’80s. Why? Again, it was what their bodies were accustomed to: a sticky, hot region where they could ply their skills as fishermen.
When Flagler opened up “Flawda” to tourism, he created an unintended consequence. Call it a kind of reverse Darwinism, if you will. People whose genetic and cultural heritage made them better suited to cooler climes, started visiting the subtropical jungles of Florida … and staying. And they just weren’t suited for it. Then they slowly went crazy from the heat.
In 2009, a website called Tableseed (we have no idea what it means, either) analyzed 2,000 “strange news” stories from the previous year. When the stories were broken down geographically, guess which state was dubbed the strangest? (In fact, the other states in the top 10 were all well north of the Mason-Dixon line. Maybe Yankees are just crazy wherever they are …)
As if you need further proof of Florida’s strangeness, check out the archives of the Flori-DUH blog at the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s website. This link is to their archive page. You might want to bring a glass of water and a comfy chair. It’s a long list.
As for the stories above, what’s the explanation? Sure, it could be a secret government chemical weapons test. but why would the government knowingly test chemicals on an unsuspecting population. (Maybe because they’ve done it before.) But we at RSM think the answer is much simpler.
The rashes? We’ll call them Yankee Heat Rash. The breathing difficulties and generally feelings of unwell? Yankee Asthma or Yankee Hypersensitivity Disorder. The sudden violent behavior? Good ol’ fashioned Yankee Crazy.
The so-called zombie attack is still unexplained. Signs certainly point to some sort of psychotic break or, more likely, the influence of substances yet unidentified. As for all the other crazy behavior in Florida, maybe the problem is this: people move there or grow up there expecting it to be Paradise. No place can live up to those unrealistic expectations. Florida is no paradise. It’s just another state, just problems and palm trees.
So I think we can all turn the hysteria down a notch. We’re not about to be overtaken by armies of the walking dead. Sentient lawnmowers, however…