Flori(duh!) l Off Kilter

By Mike Gold | Jun 05, 2019

Let me say, at the outset, that my wife and I lived in Boca Raton for six years just after I retired (for the first time).

The weather was beautiful (other than from about mid-March to end of October, when the daily temperature and humidity were just about the same, 90 degrees, 90 percent).

Let me also say that we enjoyed our living there. You played tennis any day you wished, OUTSIDE! None of the indoor tennis that most of us play in the Seattle area.

Everything (and I mean everything) is air-conditioned. The shopping centers there typically open at 6 a.m. (not the stores, just the concourse) so the legions of older people can do their daily walk in an air-conditioned place. (Of course, the Starbucks also opens at 6 a.m., no surprise there).

So why did I entitle this column Flori(duh!)?

I’ll refer to something my father always said, in the 25-plus years he and my mom lived their retirement there. He called Florida the home of the “easy money crowd.”

What he meant was that the absolutely 100 percent laid back nature of the mostly retired residents, combined with the beautiful sunny weather created an environment in which many of the younger people there (someone has to work in the retail stores, etc.) developed the attitude that one didn’t have to work very hard (or at all) in order to make a living.

The retired people don’t ever seem to be in a hurry.

Old joke: A retired couple is eating breakfast.

The wife says to the husband: “What are you going to do today?”

Husband says: “I think I’ll get the mail, then I’m going to get an ice cream.”

Wife says: “Why do everything in one day?”

This lack of “high alert” may mean that many “workers” especially those in small independent businesses, often try to take advantage of the elderly residents.

How does this attitude show up in the day to day lives of its residents? Well, first, don’t expect highly attentive service. On many occasions I had some service done (on a car, in our home, etc.) and was appalled at how slowly and incorrectly things got done. If you complained, it was 50 percent likely that your job would be delayed even longer.

After all, why put up with verbal abuse when there are customers just down the street who don’t complain. (I suggest it’s because they know to expect this and if one complains, you might not get service at all).

Here is one example. When we first arrived, we were told to install a water softening system. This gets rid of calcium and magnesium which can damage your plumbing over a number of years. Scale can build up in the pipes, leading to loss of water pressure or slow water flow. So it was recommended (by a neighbor) to call a specific vendor.

He showed up with a fairly large case, which he put on the floor in front of our kitchen sink. He opened it up and it was full of test tubes, chemicals and the like. He took a sample from our sink, then poured several chemicals into the test tube. Each chemical created a different water color. He shook his head and said something like: “This is very hard water, you will probably need our strongest softener system.”

He then left and a day later I received an email quote for approximately $10,000. After I gagged, I called Culligan, who advertised on local TV stations. The same system was available for about $2,000. That’s the one we put in which worked very well for the six years we lived there.

 

Another example: We looked at installing a surround sound system. Again, a well dressed man, driving an expensive car, showed up at our house.

He walked through our home asking a couple of questions – which I suspect were designed to see how much we knew about the subject. Then he sat down and said: “We can do the job for $12,000.” Again, I was appalled at the attempt to take advantage of us.

Last point: About the higher education system.

Most of the public high schools feature campuses that look like a college. Most also had an outdoor swimming pool. The children of our friends did not appear concerned about their studies at all. Many of them only had aspirations to attend one of the very large state colleges – either the University of Florida or Florida State University.

I taught in the business school of a local Boca Raton-based college, Lynn University. Like the two gigantic state schools, the students at this college seemed more interested in hanging out at the gorgeous outdoor pool than doing their school work.

I got the impression that the large majority of high school students were following in their elder’s footsteps by getting the “required” college degree then finding a job that would allow them to earn a good living but without doing any of the “heavy lifting” a typical small business requires of its employees.

I think that “system” sustains itself from generation to generation.

And I think that’s why I got the impression of living in Flori(duh!) that I did.

 

 

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