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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

Another day, another survey knocking Florida

It’s too late to stay in bed now on this Friday the 13th, although a new study suggests Floridians are living in the most stressed-out state in America and bed might be your safest bet.

I wouldn’t panic. My guess is that one reason we are so stressed out is the almost weekly barrage of surveys telling us that we are the worst state in traffic, education, sinkholes, low pay, nutty politicians, weird critters and a changing climate that is going to cover the state with 15 feet of water.

What does worry me is I’m not sure the survey took in all of the things we should worry about in Florida. It doesn’t say anything, for instance, about the way those thunderboomers blow in off the bay about 20 minutes after I’ve fired up the charcoal grill. And I don’t think the survey took in the Rays’ contributions this season with their newfound ability to blow games after eight or nine innings.

It’s easy to ignore most of these surveys, even if there usually is some bit of truth buried in them. This latest survey was by a real estate development company called Movoto. According to its results, Florida is the most stressful state — followed closely by Georgia, which must be because of all those people coming into Florida through Georgia on Interstate 75 and Interstate 95.

The survey is said to be based largely on unemployment statistics, long commutes, the number of Floridans with no health care and the percent of income spent on housing.

Oddly enough, the least stressful state, according to the survey, is North Dakota.

I’ve never lived there, but we did spend some time living on a hill overlooking Rapid City, South Dakota, which can’t be all that different. I don’t think there was all that much stress up there, although in the winter we frequently had to climb out of the window on the side of the house that wasn’t buried in snow. And there also was that race in the morning to reach the space heater in the middle of the room before freezing to death.

The truth is I’m not sure Floridians are any more stressed out than people elsewhere in the country. It’s just that we have more opportunities to go bonkers. I mean, it used to be you didn’t go swimming in ponds and rivers because you were afraid of alligators. Now apparently the pythons have chased them away and you have to worry about getting swallowed by a 20-foot snake.

Now that it’s hurricane season, the TV stations don’t let you forget to have your “emergency kits” put together with batteries, canned tuna fish and bottled water. And you need to have an escape plan.

Of course, if your escape plan has anything to do with loading up the family and heading out on any interstate highway along with 19 million other Floridians, then you might really get a lesson in stress. You might get as far as Tampa’s infamous Malfunction Junction about the time the storm of the century rolls in and you end up somewhere in Oz.

It used to be Floridians could relieve their stress by going to the beach for the day or maybe even taking in one of the theme parks.

That was before the beaches disappeared behind great walls of condominiums and visitors endlessly circled small parking lots looking for a place to put their cars.

The theme parks evolved as well, giving you the chance to spend close to $100 a ticket to relax and get a little sun while standing in two-hour lines.

Listen, I don’t care what the surveys say. It’s summer, school’s out, and a little weirdness is a good thing.

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