Florida Man: Our Love-Hate Relationship With Florida


Florida People

“Our Governor would make a fantastic president.” a Florida woman said to me while we were driving down I-4, the infamous death highway of Disney and Universal and all the other amusement parks Orlando, Florida has to offer. What makes Florida so special? So unique? So “Maybe we should just make it its own country?”


Near the end of this summer, I traveled to the state of Florida to spend time with my family. With COVID-19 cases surging, I was incredibly hesitant. On the day of my arrival, August 7th, only 49.5% of the population had been fully vaccinated, which put Florida on the lower end of total vaccinated population. My arrival was a little over a week after Governor DeSantis of Florida issued an executive order to have parents decide if they were to mask up their children for the coming school year, which was soon followed by threats of revoking school funding if masks were required for students.


I have been to Florida more times than I can keep track of because of my family’s residence in the state. Florida has always had its quirks and idiosyncrasies, but these have become increasingly obvious during the pandemic. Before, it was easy to ignore Florida while it slowly drifted into the Atlantic Ocean. Conversations of Florida were short-lived and often about beaches or politics. But as Florida became a Covid frenzy, America couldn’t help but pay attention. The Florida Man headline caught our eyes once again.


As everyone became increasingly aware of the cultural, social, and political impacts of Florida on America, I started to notice Florida’s quirks and charms. Florida is unique, to say the least. There is nothing mundane about Florida. 


I landed in Florida at the Orlando airport, which, if you’ve never been there, is an incredibly busy airport with about 45 million passengers per year. The first thing you notice about this airport is the alarming amount of people wearing Mickey ears. Toddlers, teens, adults, babies, seniors, the ears are everywhere. If you’re lucky, which you definitely will be if you’re flying to Orlando, the majority of the people on your flight will probably be going to Disney World. “Welcome to Orlando” really just feels like “Welcome to Disney.”


Disney World isn’t the only Disney you can find in Orlando; Disney has grown over Orlando like an invasive weed. There’s Epcot, Magic Kingdom Park, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs, Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Blizzard Beach Water Park, Disney’s Boardwalk, and Disney’s several golf courses. Disney, Disney, Disney. They have two whole water parks. Two. 


Disney is everywhere in Orlando. But there’s more than just Disney. There’s Legoland, Universal, Seaworld, and even Gatorland. It’s hard to get bored in Orlando. It’s a city that’s economy is based almost entirely on amusement parks. That’s pretty Florida.


As we left the airport, we drove through the very flat suburbs of Orlando, which is not to be confused with Ohio. When driving through Florida, you see lots of interesting things. But one of the most prominent and uninteresting things you see are the miles and miles of strip malls Florida has to offer. They’re the second economy of Orlando. The entire state is just a long road of strip malls, and there’s no denying it.


When we think of Florida, we think of a lot of things, one of those being retirees. The senior citizens in Florida don’t really hang out in Orlando, but they do hang out in other parts of the state. My grandma used to live in a retirement community in Florida. It was a strange little place with a lot of strange seniors cruising around on golf carts. Every street was lined with one story ranches with perfectly manicured lawns and golf carts parked in the driveway. It all looks the same, but these seniors happen to be the happiest people you have ever met. Florida is a utopian society in these places. 


The retirees golf and partake in water aerobics, all of which have their charm, but the real charm of Florida is found on the beaches. I think we all remember the notorious “Spring breakers” at the beginning of the pandemic in Florida. Well, the Spring breakers come to Florida every year and you will definitely see them. The beaches are beautiful and loud and calm and rowdy. It all depends on the time of year. But when they are calm and beautiful, they host a very nice place to be alone with your thoughts and the ocean. I sat on the beach and thought about a lot of things. And while sitting on the beach, one of those thoughts was just how weird Florida is.


Even though Florida is terrible at handling a pandemic and makes questionable choices, it’s still an interesting place. Even though we talk about Florida with a distaste, we all have looked up Florida Man. And even though Florida gets on our nerves, we can appreciate it from afar while it still exists, before it becomes submerged by the Atlantic Ocean. Florida is wild, but I’m glad it exists. I appreciate its quirks and idiosyncrasies, even if they get on my nerves. Florida is an eccentric place: the “Happiest place on Earth”.