Ah, snowbird season.
It’s when the flock of gray hairs descend on us from the North to clog up our streets, restaurants, and beaches. Sure, they funnel money into our economy faster than you can say “disposable income.” But they’re retired, which means they move at a glacial pace. And they think every stranger who smiles at them has time for a long, in-depth, personal conversation. For busy mamas and kids, who have places to go and things to do, the senior swarm can be a bit, well, smothering. Whether it’s your first or your fifteenth winter in Sarasota, here are some honest tips for making it to May without losing your mind.
Wait…when is snowbird season?
Technically, it’s from Thanksgiving to Easter. But many snowbirds stay up North until January to spend the holidays with their families. So after the first of the year, the influx comes. The latest Census report found that Sarasota experiences an increase of 80,000 people during the winter months. You’ll know it’s “season” when every other license plate on the road is from New York, New Jersey, or Quebec.
They’re everywhere! What do I do?
Don’t even think about going out to dinner without a reservation.
Especially not from the hours of 4:00 – 7:00pm. No matter what night it is. Every restaurant will have a two-hour wait. Even chain restaurants like Applebees and Outback. The snowbirds find comfort in familiar foods. Like fried seafood. It’s fresh down here, so I’m not sure why it has to be fried. But that’s how they like it. Oh, and especially don’t go anywhere that has a kitschy island decor, tiki torches or live music with Jimmy Buffet covers.
Avoid the deli counter.
“I’ll have a quarter pound of capicola. Thinly sliced. But not so thin they stick together and tear. You know how they do that? I just hate that. And you’d better let me have a taste. No, I don’t like that. Give me the salami instead. Not hard. The Genoa. And make it half a pound, come to think of it. A little thicker, wouldya? That looks good. Yeah, I’ll taste it. I didn’t have my lunch yet. Blood sugar’s low. But this is for my husband. Did I tell you he’s golfing today?” That was number 67. You’re number 82. I rest my case.
Don’t go to the post office either.
It’s inevitable that a snowbird ahead of you will need to mail 35 packages to Canandaigua. And she’ll want to pay using spare change. Her grandchildren must continue to have her special snickerdoodle cookies even while she’s in Florida, after all!
While you’re at it, skip the pharmacy.
Unless you want to wait behind 10 snowbirds who think the pharmacist is actually their family physician and can diagnose that weird skin tag or give them something for that blistery rash on their arm (looks like someone forgot to get the shingles vaccine!). You drop off your prescription. You come back later. You pay. You get your pills. How hard is that? Very hard apparently.
Don’t take your children to run errands, especially if they’re infants.
Grandmas are all over cute babies like syrup on pancakes. You can’t escape them. You’re at the grocery trying to decide between romaine and butter lettuce when you look back at your cart and your child has a big, wet, red-lipsticked kiss on his face from some octogenarian you’ve never met in your life. Now that you’re paralyzed with shock, she’ll regale you with tales of, “I have a grandson his age. Or maybe a little older. He lives in Michigan. He just loves firetrucks. Do you love firetrucks?” Of course, he loves firetrucks. He’s a boy. He’s two. And I’ve got 85 things on my grocery list to find before he has a nuclear meltdown.
Steer clear of the beach.
Unless you live on or near Siesta Key, Longboat Key or Anna Maria Island, don’t go out there during season. However long it takes you to get there from your house normally, double it. Triple it if you’re going around dinner time. And you can forget finding a place to park. Because they’ve had their Cadillacs and Beamers in those spots since 5:00am.
Increase your auto insurance coverage.
I’ve seen a snowbird cross three lanes of traffic without a blinker. I’ve seen another drive over a median in the middle of Fruitville Road and knock down three reflective road markers before she figured out she was doing something wrong. I’ve seen a snowbird driving in the wrong direction on I-75. THE WRONG DIRECTION ON I-75. That’s a freeway, people. And beeping at them makes no difference. They can’t hear the horns. So make sure you have good insurance, put down your phones and be on the alert when you’re on the road. You’ll do a lot of defensive driving.
Schedule all your doctor’s appointments for summer.
Your annual physical, your teeth cleaning, your OB/GYN appointment. Schedule all that stuff for the summertime, when the doctor’s offices aren’t chock full of elderly with ailments. Wash your hands, take your vitamins, get your flu shot and whatever you do, don’t get sick. If you do need to see your doctor during season, you’ll spend 20 minutes on hold just trying to make an appointment, then another hour or so waiting to see your doctor at the office. And cross your fingers, toes, and eyes that you don’t have to go to the lab to get bloodwork. That’s worse than the wait at the DMV.
Don’t expect them to babysit.
We used a few grandmas we found through Care.com as babysitters after our son was born. I mean, they’ve got a lot of experience, right? That had to be at least one of the season’s perks. Well, we’d use a granny once, but when we’d try to book her again, she was going to a baseball game, or a black tie gala, or had a book club meeting. Geez lady, do you wanna make some money or not? Oh right, you did that already. Now you’re retired and just want to do your own thing. And maybe every now and then, when it works with your schedule, cuddle a baby for some extra cash. Well, that doesn’t work with my schedule. But have fun at your shuffleboard game.
Trust Me, This Simple 9-Part Plan Will Save Your Sanity
In summary, don’t eat, drive, go to the doctor, the pharmacy, the grocery, the post office, the beach or basically anywhere out in public and you too can have a wonderful winter season in Sarasota! Thank goodness it’s only a season. Stay strong, mama. We just have to make it to May.