We’re all pretending to ignore the giant elephant in the Keys – summer is almost here. As a matter of fact, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, in 2017 here on the east coast, the summer solstice falls on Wednesday, June 21, at precisely 12:24 a.m.
I feel as though I have to announce this fact since we live in the Florida Keys and we have sunshine, on average, 260 days out of the year, so it’s difficult to figure out when it’s summer and when it’s spring or fall… or winter, for that matter.
Difficult, maybe for the novice, but for the experienced local, we instinctually know when summers are around the corner. Like a bear knows when to hibernate, we have also learned to adapt so we can continue living here peacefully. It has taken me years to figure out summer survival secrets, but I’m ready to share the top 15 I’ve discovered.
1. Bears prepare for the harsh winters by raiding local trashcans to stock up on food. Similarly, we desperately watch for sales to stock up on mosquito spray and deodorant.
2. Instead of looking for a cave to tuck into for a few months, a lot of us simply book tickets to escape to a cooler climate for a few weeks.
Here’s how we prepare our caves or, rather, our homes, for the inevitable heat…
3. The highest priority over anything is to make sure our air-conditioners are working properly. Here’s how most of us do this:
a. Begin praying each night, asking for our A/C to last one more summer.
b. We send small gifts to our local A/C repairmen so we have a friend in place if those prayers in 3a. aren’t answered.
c. Long-time locals with the older homes (and older A/C units) go the extra mile and invite these same A/C repairman over for a couple of beers and barbecues, so they’ll know exactly where the house is located.
4. We repeat the same steps above for the air-conditioning in our homes away from home, i.e., our cars. Prayers, bribery, location identification.
5. In case of extreme emergency (ignoring steps #3 & #4 above,) we stock up on Yeti tumblers. At least our drinks will stay icy cold while we melt inside our homes.
The Keys’ intense heat over the summer is nothing compared to the fact that our beloved kids are out of school. Especially if you have teens. (Picture a hormonal bear Snap chatting as it walks through a flimsy tent.) Parents need to be prepared and ready for these next few months.
6. Make sure their phones are paid for — so we can threaten to take them away.
7. When it comes to Wi-Fi, we find ourselves wooing anyone associated with AT&T, Sprint, etc. and inviting them to the barbecue mentioned in 3c. NO ONE wants to be around kids (or my husband) if they don’t have Wi-Fi.
8. Find camps away from home — stat.
9. Make a list of family activities so you’re prepared to spend time with each other.
a. Movie nights perfect… sort of like a lock-down where no one can talk or complain.
b. Home repair projects for the family to tackle together – doesn’t work for me, but it’s a dream we shouldn’t dismiss.
c. Road trip – again, see #4 above. If you forgot to follow #4, make sure #5 is full of vodka (and you’re not the driver) so you’ll be able to:
i. Blame the driver for not checking #4
ii. Handle a car full of hot kids and an overheated driver with a vague, yet happy smile on your face.
Actually summer means EVERYONE’S kids are out of school. This means ALL families north of the Keys are opting for 9c. (road trips down to the Keys.) And this means you have to be more prepared than Grizzly Adams if you want to survive these extreme conditions.
10. Grocery stores will continue to be packed. But this time, no one will want to leave because of the summer heat – especially if they ignored #3 above. Claim your section in the freezer aisle and protect it like a polar bear protects his iceberg. Since humans don’t have sharp teeth and claws, our only hope is to forgoe deodorant and use that “powerful” weapon resourcefully when someone threatens to move into your freezer space.
11. Be defensive on the water. Boating gets dangerous with newbie partiers down here. Nuff said.
Bugs are back in force over the summer months. These miniscule insects can bring down giants. When it comes to evil enemies like no-seeums, mosquitoes, fire ants and scorpions, it’s every man/woman and child for himself or herself.
12. You’ll definitely want exterminators to know where you live, so buy more hamburger buns for those barbecues.
13. If you’re like me, make lemonade out of lemons. In other words, keep all of your aggression in check until the mosquito season is in full swing. Then go ahead and slug your hubby in the arm for no real reason – just innocently explain you killed a mosquito for him.
Finally, hurricanes are the worst part of summers. Definitely find the professional checklists to follow for hurricanes preparedness, but here are some of the most important priorities they don’t usually mention:
14. Which booze to stock up on? Let’s think this out… beer definitely needs to be chilled whereas wine and vodka can be downed without ever meeting an ice cube. Easy decision in times of crisis. Also, vodka helps make happier lemonade out of lemons.
15. Most checklists remind you to have your gas tanks filled when a hurricane is inevitable. But, here in the Keys, a full gas tank isn’t so we’ll be ready to evacuate. You’ll need the gas in your car so you’ll have another way to charge your electronics during the bad weather. For goodness sakes… survival is key! Forget about food and water – Instagraming your hurricane hairstyle is far more important people.
(If you honestly thought the gas was needed for evacuation… you’ll need a few more years under your belt before you’ll be considered a conch. True locals never really want to leave the Florida Keys. Not even during our brutal summers.)
Jana Vandelaar has worked as a freelance writer in the Keys with a loving family, fun friends and smelly pups for more than 20 years. Check out her website at www.janavandelaar.com for more books available online or ‘Like’ her Facebook page at JanabananaINK for daily smiles about life as she sees and lives it. If you enjoy her articles, Jana has a book titled, “ONLY IN THE KEYS, Snort-Laughing Stories About Life In The Florida Keys.” This is a fun book full of Jana’s most popular articles written for The Reporter since 2008. It’s available at Randy’s Florida Keys Gifts, MM 102.4 or at Hooked On Books, MM 81.9.