You’ve gotta wonder what’s happening in Florida, right? That state is like the problem child of the United States.
Anytime a big story breaks, one of my first thoughts is: I bet that’s in Florida. I used to think I was being speculative and judgemental, until I read a similar confession from a friend of mine who’s a Florida resident, who said she cringes at their headlines much more often than a Floridian should have to.
“Why does every weird story have to have a Florida connection?” she asked. She said she counts the hours before some sort of Florida connection pops up to a breaking news event, bracing herself for plenty of razzing from her out-of-state relatives and friends.
Of course they’re not the only ones who feel the harsh heat and glare of the spotlight. Many states and provinces have their fair share of wacky politicians and crazy people who make headline news for the strangest things, and some of those places have far smaller populations than Florida, making the craziness per capita higher than the Sunshine State.
But still, somehow those poor Floridians manage to churn out regular fodder for news watchers to snicker about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across interesting articles where Florida has served as the backdrop for shenanigans so bizarre that I have to check if the story is actually true.
The past month or so has been particularly brutal for proud Floridians, if you read the news. As I write this, they still don’t know who their governor, their U.S. Senator, or their agricultural commissioner are, because those races from the mid-term election are in a mandatory recount. And while many say these razor-thin margins underscore how swingy of a swing state they are, it’s not the election results that make the most headlines; instead it’s the circus-like atmosphere that accompanies most of their electoral events.
In the past week alone, one politician has taken back a concession speech, and their outgoing governor, who himself has been accused of corporate shenanigans when he was a healthcare CEO, made unfounded charges of election fraud. He also filed emergency motions requesting that vote-tabulation machines and ballots in two counties be turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Talk about a sore loser! Political theater can’t get much more cringe-worthy than that.
Unfortunately, their reputation precedes them. They are the state that made headlines in the 2000 election when George Bush won Florida by 537 votes, and only after the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a statewide recount. There were head-hunters in the nursing homes looking for eligible voters and fist fights in the streets over the paper from the voting machines. The entire country, and watchers abroad, were tuned in to see the results of one polling place in one county that would determine who became President that year. Maybe it’s proof that all their wonderful sunshine has made them just a bit zanier than the rest of the country.
It’s hardly just politics that makes for such head-scratching headlines.
“A woman blamed a windy day for the cocaine found in her purse”
“An intoxicated man started a fire while making cookies in the nude on a George Foreman”
“Police arrested a Florida man for climbing on top of a playground structure and lecturing kids on where babies come from”
“Clearwater woman dressed as turkey arrested for shoplifting”
All those are real, by the way. And that’s just from one page.
I doubt Floridians enjoy being the constant source of a punch line. No doubt they resent that Cesar Sayoc, the guy accused of sending more than a dozen pipe bombs to anti-Trumpers, is a Miami resident; that a local Catholic all-boys high school used a caged tiger as a prom prop because it fit with its “Welcome to the Jungle” theme; that a Florida couple built a drive-thru window at their mobile home to sell drugs; that a Miami cannibal, high on some new street drug, ate a homeless man’s face; and that Reddit has a whole forum on-line making fun of crazy Florida stories.
Maybe there are other places that produce news that is more ridiculous, more entertaining, more outlandish, more unfathomable, more worthy of face-palming. I just haven’t found one.