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Confessions of a Floridian in Ohio

Dear readers, I am an out-of-state student. If you’ve ever met an out-of-state student, you know that we tend to make it our entire personality just to not be from Ohio. 

Our states might suck too, but at least our pro football teams win, our weather makes up its mind and we don’t have to drive 30 minutes to get a bagel that isn’t steamed. 

However, I am from Florida, which beats even Ohio out for the title of “most memed state in the country.” From our one-gloved governor to Marvel’s rejected Phase Five superhero, the Florida Man, it’s common to see my home state — or even my hometown — in the papers. 

Florida’s notoriety is great for making “being from FL” my entire personality. After all, I don’t think I look like I’m from Florida — I don’t wear Mickey Mouse ears to class, I’m not over the age of 65 and, most importantly, I have all of my teeth — so it usually comes as a shock to strangers that I’m not a Michigan-hating, country-music-night-at-Brick-loving, chili-consuming child of the corn.

(I have picked up the “Ope!” while I’ve been here, though. I blame that on the fact that all of my roommates are Midwesterners.)

So, as a self-appointed and very unofficial student representative of the Sunshine State, I thought it might be prudent to address some of the most common questions I’m asked whenever I tell you Ohioans my hometown.

“Have you ever seen a gator?”

Nope, never. Our down-south highway Alligator Alley is actually full of crocodiles that we put alligator masks on to fool tourists. 

It works, too. Why do you think our taxes are so low, our roads are so slow and our politics blow? Tourism.

(Yes, I’ve seen a gator. A few wild ones, but mostly captive at our local minigolf courses — and no, I’m not kidding.)

“Have you ever fought a gator?”

Okay, in all seriousness, no — but I do know how to fight one, if need be.

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In elementary school, we watched copious videos of what to do if we were ever attacked by a gator. That zigzag stuff from the movies is straight bull. Run. But if it does catch you in the water, it’ll try to get you in a death roll — you have to roll with it to avoid getting a limb ripped off. 

Of course, if you can get it before it bites you, even a kid has enough force to hold a gator’s jaws shut with their hands. Their bite-down muscles are a lot stronger than their open-mouth ones.

“Okay, Ames, you put your hands around the killing thing’s mouth, but you don’t give it the power to kill you.”

We learned this at six years old, by the way. That’s Florida for you.

I know this is an article in the humor section, but I am dead serious. 

They did take the practical version of this “Gator-Grappling 101” course out, though, after Little Timmy got a bite taken out of him the year before I showed up. 

I heard his hospital bill cost an arm and a leg — but at least the insurance folks just had to wait until the gator passed ‘em to collect.

“What is a hurricane like?”

Really, there’s two kinds of people when it comes to a hurricane: there are the people for whom the hurricane will cause serious damage and upend their lives, and then there are the youth of Florida.

Hurricanes can be scary if you’re not properly protected, but as long as you’ve got somewhere safe to ride out the storm, most people just pick up a Publix “hurricake” and a bottle of alcohol, then head out to their nearest hurricane party, which, yes, are a real thing.

I’m worried for the people of Florida right now, of course, what with Hurricane Ian hitting, but at the same time… I know that FSU, USF and UF are about to have hurricane bashes for the ages. 

“Do you know a Florida Man?”

No, but I do have a (tenuous) connection to a Florida Woman.

The week before my high school graduation, I had just gotten out of an exam and had a hankering for some French fries. There was a Burger King nearby, so I headed over, only to find it closed. Figuring that I’d just missed the hours or forgotten a holiday, I went to the nearby WaWa for mac n’ cheese instead.

(You Ohio people are missing out on WaWa, by the way. That and Publix are the only Florida chains I miss up here.)

It turned out that the Burger King was closed because, get this, a Florida Woman all hopped up on the special kind of something that you can only find in the Sunshine State got arrested there. That’s pretty commonplace for Burger Kings in Florida.

What was less commonplace was the seven syringes they found on her person during the arrest.

Perhaps “on” her person is the wrong way of putting it. More like “in” her person, if you get my drift.

So, yeah, that’s why I didn’t get Burger King fries that day. In typical Florida fashion, I’m making this story all about me.

And yes, this is all true. You can Google it.

“Aren’t you at the wrong Miami?”

Ha ha ha ha ha. Hilarious, guys. I NEVER hear this one. You’re so original. You should come write for the humor section.

In fairness, we make this mistake in Florida, too. A friend of mine who was looking at the University of Miami senior year very excitedly told me that, if we both ended up at Miami, we could live together! 

“Yeah!” I said, and then I never talked to her again out of pure embarrassment.

But seriously, guys, who wouldn’t want to come live in Ohio? This place is fantastic. You have Skyline Chili (I’m vegetarian); the Browns, Bengals and Blue Jackets (I’m a Buccaneers and Lightning fan); UDF (give me my WaWa) and “Hell is Real” billboards (okay, these actually do make me chuckle). 

Clearly, I have every reason to have moved up here.

Though in some ways, it’s like I never left Florida. It rains every day there, too. Our roads are constantly under construction and yet somehow never get fixed. Every once in a while, one of our sports will get really good, and then get so bad that the nation never lets us forget it.

And, of course, it’s one meme state to the next. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.