A snowbird education

Photos by Bruce Lear, published with permission

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at BruceLear2419@gmail.com  

There’s a learning curve for every change. How sharp the curve is depends on the speed of the change. The journey from Iowa snowbound to Florida snowbird was abrupt but welcome.

We bought a small place in the land of alligators and golf carts and headed South a day after the last January blizzard. Here are a few lessons from our snowbird education.

The trip down was fine until Mississippi. When that state gets ice, it doesn’t know what to do with it.  We drove through a sliver of the state, and that was plenty. An ice storm four days prior meant five inches of gleaming ice on the passing lane. Even ice-road truckers wouldn’t have braved that lane.

Mississippi’s state bird is the cheerful mockingbird. I could hear it cheerfully mocking us as we followed that one-lane path toward Alabama.

Forwarding mail doesn’t work. We still got important mail like grocery ads, and political pitches, but we missed getting tax documents and personal mail that somehow evaporated into mail ether.

Golf cart drivers over 55 are stop sign resistant. 

Up North, I never knew I needed a lanai. I did. It’s an addition and a place I smile when I read about Iowa snow.

Hardly anyone confuses Iowa and Idaho anymore, thanks to three C’s. The caucuses are still famous or maybe infamous, but Caitlin Clark is more popular. She has helped start many happy hour conversations even though she’s 1,700 miles away swishing threes and making impossible passes. 

Alligators are faster than old men. If you want to take a photo, make sure they’re really sleeping.

When meeting other snowbirds, your job before you took flight is less important than where you’re from, whether you play pickleball, and the route you drove to get there.

Those who say Florida is “God’s waiting room” must not have seen an over-55 pickleball game. Yes, It’s the sport of replaced hips and knees, but it’s also serious business. 

When the forecaster predicts a rain event, think monsoon instead of sprinkle.

It’s ok to have Happy Hour every day.

Shuffleboard has strategy. I’ll get better, maybe.

Most of all, I’ve learned about people and politics. I’ve discovered people from all over this country have a lot in common. They come from different political parties, backgrounds, and income levels, but everyone I’ve met wants the same things: security for their families and a quiet, comfortable lifestyle.

The political noise is telling us we’re so divided, it can’t be mended. The din coming from social media and nonstop cable TV is drowning out the political middle, where the majority live. 

It’s too easy to label those who think differently as an enemy. It gets us nowhere, but into a shouting match with no winners. There are plenty of red hats here and plenty who are blue through and through. Yet, no voices raised, and no fists thrown. Agreeing to disagree without being disagreeable is a lesson I’m learning.

Yet, even immersed in happy hour, I’m not naive enough to believe fundamental disagreements should always be compromised or ignored. I understand that just because the majority believes one way, I don’t have to agree.

Going along just to get along isn’t a solution.

It’s a problem.

Atticus Finch was right when he said in a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” 

In a few months, I’ll sunbird back North to learn some other lessons from home.

About the Author(s)

Bruce Lear