For the record, both of these unfortunate stereotypes are 100 percent accurate.
This animosity between regions is duplicated all over Florida, which is why Floridians lack the sense of unity and state pride you find elsewhere. We are not like Texans, who are always reminding everybody how great Texas is and signaling their proud Texanicity by wearing giant hats and going, “Yee-haw!” The vast majority of Floridians firmly believe — and the statistics back us up on this — that the vast majority of Floridians are idiots.
But despite our differences, there are three things that Floridians agree on:
1. We do not want a state income tax.
2. When the northern part of the nation is being hammered by frigid, brutal, even life-threatening winter weather, it is our sacred duty to get on social media and gloat.
3. We love our manatees.
Manatees are dirigible-shaped aquatic mammals that live in coastal waters. They are sometimes called “sea cows,” although biologically their closest relative is the sofa. They are large and slow-moving, spending their days munching on aquatic plants and blooping out manatee farts. They are sweet and harmless and goofy-looking, and they make Floridians happy.
On our daily dog-walk, my wife and I cross a bridge over a canal. We always look down, and every now and then we’ll spot a passing manatee, or sometimes — this is the best — a family of manatees, usually including a mommy manatee being nuzzled by a cute little baby manatee the size of a Fiat. These sightings always excite us and fill us with joy. We take pictures with our phones; we yell to other pedestrians to come see. Sometimes, drivers stop on the bridge to have a look. A happy crowd forms, and for a few moments we are united, as Floridians, by our affection for these beautiful blooping blimps of the sea.
So you can imagine how appalled we Floridians are — yes, I speak for all of us — by recent news stories concerning a manatee, spotted in Citrus County, that some idiot defaced by scraping off the algae on the manatee’s back to form five large letters. The letters spell the name of a sitting U.S. president whom I will not identify here because he has received too much attention already.
The experts say the manatee will probably be okay, but everyone agrees that the defacement was a vile and cruel thing to do to a harmless, defenseless animal. It’s also illegal, and the authorities are investigating. I hope they catch whoever did it.
Some years ago I wrote a column about manatees and the biggest threat to them, which is Florida boaters, who kill dozens of manatees every year, mainly by going too fast in areas where manatees live. In my column, I proposed a solution: If the boaters refuse to slow down, maybe we should speed the manatees up. Specifically, I proposed outfitting the manatees with propellers driven by powerful motors. My argument was that if several expensive boats were destroyed by manatees traveling upward of 70 miles per hour, perhaps the boaters would start paying attention.
I was kidding, of course. But in recalling that column, I had an idea for what might be a suitable punishment for the manatee defacer.
A permanent tattoo.
In large block letters.
On the defacer’s forehead.
The letters would spell “MANATEE.”