The Florida Keys are in a world of their own. When you leave the Florida mainland and venture south into Key Largo, you cross an invisible boundary into a place where the air is saltier, the sunsets are brighter, and everyone moves just a little bit slower. After living in the Keys for just a month, I’ve fallen in love with the area and all of the little idiosyncrasies that go along with it. Here are a few of my experiences that could only ever happen in America’s tropical paradise.
1. Wearing sunglasses in a downpour
In case you’ve never been to Florida in the summer, let me fill you in. It rains. A lot. And I’m not talking a few sprinkling showers, I’m talking torrential downpours of biblical proportions. The kind where there’s no sense even running for cover because you’re going to be soaked by the time you get there anyway. But fortunately, Florida storms start quickly and end quickly. They come up so fast that you probably can’t finish the thought “it looks like it might rain” before the heavens open and you’re soaked to the bone, but chances are they will only last ten minutes or so. Therefore, I found it wasn’t uncommon to be getting rained on while the sun shone through clouds up ahead, causing the need for sunglasses. Sunglasses in a rainstorm…who knew?
2. Finding a large parrot on your arm before dinner
This happened to me while I was standing outside of a dive shop in Key Largo waiting to meet a friend for dinner. I was on the phone, not paying attention to my surroundings, when I felt something sharp prodding my arm. I looked over and let out a confused yelp when I saw a large macaw sitting on my forearm, his beak about six inches from my face. I returned my phone conversation with “I’ll have to call you back,” and turned my attention to the grinning man in front of me, clearly the owner of the parrot. Turns out he just walked up and let the parrot climb onto my arm (because who doesn’t want to be surprised by a large bird…?) in an attempt to be friendly and welcoming. We had a nice chat and he took a photo before I politely encouraged him to please take his bird off me.
3. Never knowing what day it is
This actually became a serious problem for me. Anyone who has spent any time with me knows I’m absolutely glued to my planner and my to-do lists. If something isn’t on the list, it’s simply not getting done. In the Keys, I never used my planner once. Not once! Most of my interviews were last-minute anyway, so no need to plan far in advance (that’s another thing about the Keys, most planning is done a day or two before). There was nothing consistent about my day-to-day schedule, therefore one week kind of blended into the next. It was a rude awakening to get back to the real world (aka north of Key Largo) and remember that people expect you to know what day it is.
4. Playing bingo with treasure hunters
This was one of my more unusual mornings. I had arranged to meet someone named Pat Clyne through a mutual friend, and I had expected to just grab coffee or something casual. Then somehow I found myself at breakfast with members of the team responsible for discovering the wreck of the Atocha, a Spanish ship carrying silver, gold and jewels that sunk off of the Florida Keys in 1622. Mel Fisher and his crew uncovered the Atocha in 1985, and the wreck is still being salvaged to this day. As it turns out, Pat was part of the original “golden crew” who uncovered the vessel. So like any normal Sunday morning, I found myself at a Key West restaurant, chatting over eggs and grits with Kim Fisher, President and CEO of all the Mel Fisher Family Enterprises and playing bingo with his wife, Lee. I then proceeded to hold over a million dollars in Atocha gold before lunch.
Just another day in the Keys I guess!