Listless In Fort Myers: The Harsh Realities Of Wintering In Paradise

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I’m sitting on the wooden walkway, on a green metal bench, sipping an iced coffee.  I’m watching a Cessna single-engine plane pull an advertising banner across the slightly blue hazy sky.  The banner is telling us to shop at the Tanger Outlet Mall.  I look around and realize that this is the mall I’m in right now.  Wow!  Is that a coincidence or what?  I’m grateful for this bench, because it’s located in front of the main entrance to the Polo/Ralph Lauren store.  Every time someone enters or leaves, I get a free blast of cold air.

It’s one of the few free things you can enjoy when you’re this close to Sanibel Island.

As I watch the Cessna fade into the humid air, I wonder why I’m spending my valuable time sitting alone at an outlet mall in Florida.  People flock here this time of year (we did) to escape the winters of the north.  How was I to know that we were arriving in the middle of one of the more memorable heat waves in recent years.

“This is very unusual for early November,” everyone says.  “Just wait, it’ll get better.”

I am very reluctant to cross the parking lot, get into my car, and drive back to our RV.  I know when I step off this deck and into the sun, I’ll pay dearly.  Yesterday, I looked at my indoor/outdoor thermometer that I mounted with Velcro on the wall just above my head where I sleep…if I sleep.  It displayed triple digits.  I began to worry about the propane canister that is attached to our L.L. Bean grill.  There was a warning on the label about exposing the little tank to…..degrees.  That part of the label was torn.

Was my cooking propane tank going to explode while I was at the Outlet Mall?

I thought about that for a minute.  There would be a fairly large explosion that would likely affect the trailers nearby–and that wouldn’t be hard because the distance between lots is quite small.  (I can sit in our attached tent structure and watch CNN in the RV next door.)  I pondered the damage of such a fire storm–the cylinder is new and full of propane.  The mushroom cloud alone would attract people in the pool or the Shuffleboard courts.  The fire truck that would arrive would block the narrow street we lived on and the people in the golf carts would have to make an extra block.

I hope our propane doesn’t explode.  I don’t even know if we’re covered by AAA for something like that.

After I dumped the watery iced coffee into a bright green trash can, I drove home.  I switched on our AC and immediately began to worry about how much electricity it would cost to get cool me off for ten minutes.  Mariam was working today–she does everything by phone and computer–so she’s over in the “library” taking advantage of one of the two “hot spots” for the WiFi in our resort.  I tried going to the “library” to do some writing and thinking but I found it very distracting.  Every few minutes someone would come in and borrow a Nora Roberts or John Saul book.  My concentration would be broken.  I’m trying to work on a novel, but a “real” writer needs time alone.  Even amateurs like me need a place to think things through in peace.

RV flower

I guess I’m just listless in Fort Myers.  The humidity would tire anyone out, even perky people like Rachel Ray would begin to stir more slowly than usual.  I feel like a hostage to the weather.  Starbucks?  Too far away?  McDonald’s?  They won’t give me skim milk for my iced coffee unless I buy a half-pint container.  I don’t even have the energy to attend the Grand Opening of the new Walmart just a mile away.

My mind begins to wander as I lay back on our bed.  One possibility, you might suggest, is to go to one of the famous beaches and just sit under the umbrella and read or write while the ocean breeze comforts me.  But, they want $4.00/hour to park at these beaches.  And, besides, I’ve tried this approach but neither of us could get our umbrella into the sand deep enough.  The answer: I had to go to the nearest Publix store (they’re everywhere) and buy an auger so that we can drill a hole deep enough to support our shade-providing umbrella.  We’ll have to wait until our next beach visit to see if that works.

The other issue on my mind is that unlike most other places, we’re paying more for ice than for gas.  That doesn’t make sense to me.  Water isn’t shipped from the Persian Gulf and refined in New Jersey!  Crude oil is.  This is just water.  Ice runs around $2.50/bag (and lasts about a day).  Gas is about $2.09/gallon.  I did some mental math and came up with the fact that if we use a bag of ice a day, the cost will be $75.00/month.  You could rent a small room in a nice home in a tiny town somewhere in Ohio for that kind of money.

I’d like to look forward to our quiet little dinners in our tent attachment, but that presents yet another issue.  We sit at a little table that we bought at an RV store.  It has a surface texture that is very slippery.  When we used our new Corelle plates, and tried to cut a slice of fish, the plate slides around the table-top, nearly knocking over our plastic wine glasses.  I consider putting two adhesive Velcro patches on the table and on the bottom of the plates.  They would stay in place for sure.  But, if we both picked up our plates at the same time, we’d pick up the table as well.  Then the plastic wine glasses would surely fly–as well as the pepper mill and citronella candle–possibly burning a hole in our polyester rug.  Or worse…

I’m still laying back on the bed.  I’m still a little lethargic, a little listless and more than a little discouraged.

The reason I’m so down is that I recently checked my stats on my WordPress blog site.  My readership is falling.  I get three or four “likes” on the site.  I’ve looked at other bloggers and they get forty or fifty “likes” for writing six sentences on the shoes they’ve chosen for next Friday night.

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Soon, I’ll have to turn off the AC ($!) and when I do the temperature will start to climb in nanoseconds.  I guess I’ll go out and sit inside our tent.  I’d like to put an ice pack on my head to keep cool, but ice is too expensive.  And, besides, it would slip off my hair when it begins to melt–which would be immediately.

Maybe if I used Velcro on the ice pack…

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Living With Humidity

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This is going to be a brief post dealing with an issue that I have a feeling is only going to get worse.  Yes, it will only get worse as we continue our road-trip deep into Florida. I’m talking about humidity. Remember last summer when you were sitting on your patio sipping a Bud Lite from a frozen pint glass?  You’re proud of this pint glass because you got it as a souvenir at the new craft beer pub that just opened it’s doors in May.  Remember how the glass got really wet before you were half-way through?  Someone probably said the glass was “sweating”.  Well, we all know that glass doesn’t sweat.  Overweight guys who mow lawns in August in Kansas or Ohio, sweat.  Rock stars sweat.  All the Congressmen awaiting subpoenas, sweat.  It’s the condensation that makes the drops run down your souvenir pint.

A little background at this time is probably necessary.  If you hated science in school or forgot the science you did learn, or you simply don’t trust or believe in science at all (in that case, you’re probably a climate change denier), then I need to say a word or two about this thing called humidity. Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air.  Sometimes it’s confused with Relative Humidity.  This is expressed, on the 6 O’clock Action News, as a percent (%).  This is the amount of water vapor the air can hold at any given temperature.  If its 75% R.H., then the air is holding 75% of what it is capable of holding (at a given temperature).

It’s important to remember this: Cold air can’t hold as much water vapor as warm air.  So when the moisture-laden air meets the chilly souvenir pint glass, it condenses–forming water drops.

It simply isn’t sweat.  Sweat is another problem altogether.

I went to college in Louisiana, so I know humidity when I feel it.  When I stepped out of an air-conditioned classroom, I felt like I was wrapping myself in a wet towel–a very warm wet towel.

How a large percentage of the human population life and work, and even survive at latitudes about 25 degrees north or south of the equator (at low elevations) is something I’ve never fully grasped.  I have a much easier time accepting that aliens produced crop circles.  If Elvis is indeed still alive, I think he’d been living in Bangor, Maine.

I’m back in the South.  And, I’m having my first issues with the high humidity levels of southeast Georgia.  It’s late October, so I can’t really wrap my head around what the summer must be like.

I’m sitting at a picnic table at an RV park outside of Brunswick.  The table feels damp.  The bench I’m sitting on feels damp.  My bottom feels damp (even though I’m sitting on the Business Section of the New York Times from October 23.  It’s sixteen pages of stock and bond reports.  I doubled it over and it’s now thirty-two pages.  My bottom still feels damp.  I have that feeling you get when you sit in an Irish peat bog for two days in the rain.  The keys of this laptop are damp and my fingers keep sliding off causing numerous tpyos.  As you can see from the opening photo, my iPhone is covered in dew–and it’s not even morning.  This presents a unique problem.  If I wipe the ‘dew’ from the screen of my iPhone, it swishes away app or picture I happen to be looking at.  I feel as though if I stand still long enough, lichen and moss will begin to grow on my ankles.  A fern from the crook of my elbow will be next.

If I was back home at Rainbow Lake, NY, I could huff my breath against a window and draw a face or a heart.  Here, I can draw anything on nearly any surface that water vapor can condense on.  I’m thinking hard about where there may not be a film of moisture.  Probably the inside of our micro-wave oven.

I bought a temperature/humidity unit at Radio Shack (before they went belly up).  It had a nice big digital display for me to see without reading glasses.  There is even a horizontal bar that shows a few black lines on a continuum from DRY to VERY HUMID.  The black bars have lived in the VERY BAD end (the right side) for several days.

The biggest insult of all?  I have to wipe the glass cover to read what the temperature and humidity is at the present time.

On an even more personal note:  I always carry around a small notebook (I prefer Moleskin brand) to jot down ideas for blogs or plot lines for any future novels.  The problem is that the pages of my note books are limp like kelp leaves.  Or to be more honestly descriptive, damp toilet paper.  Did you ever accidentally drop a roll of Charmin into a full bath tub?  If you ever did this, I can tell you that you can do nothing, ever, to make that toilet paper even come close to being dry again.

The image of a soaking wet roll of toilet paper is a fitting way to end this blog.

Lastly, if we ever get out to the Mojave Desert or Death Valley in early March, I’m going to have a real problem with how dry my hands get.

I hate dry hands.