You are now free to move back north

illustration by brad fitzpatrick

Welcome to June, the month Florida’s snowbirds migrate back to their New Hampshire nests just in time to watch the final, dirty snow pile in their driveways melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West.

You know the drill. Southwest Airlines flights, filled to the brim with over-tanned Keith Richards look-alikes. They come from Lauderdale, Key West, Naples. For the first time this winter, I tried on my winter wings for a week in the Sunshine State, also known as God’s waiting room.

My timing could not have been better. I flew the coop between back-to-back blizzards in February. As a reward, I treated myself to a Ford Mustang rental car. At 66, does this qualify as addressing my mid-life crisis? Maybe. If I live to 120.

“For another $25 a day, I can put you in a convertible,” the Avis associate told me. “I have silver, red, yellow and burnt orange.”

“I may never drive an orange car again. I’ll take that one,” I beamed, knowing very well that every Florida statie would be locking me into their speed trap guns along I-75.

New Hampshire snowbirds love a good comedy show as they head home. On my return trip, our male Southwest flight attendant worked the oxygen mask safety announcement like it was open mic night at Shaskeen in Manchester.

“On a serious note, folks, for those of you traveling with children, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Go ahead and choose the one who has the most potential and start with them. Then work your way down from there. This is a big decision, folks. Remember these are the people that’ll be putting you in a home later in life.”

Welcome to the Chuckle Hut at 30,000 feet. I fully expected him to close with, “I’ll be here all flight.”

While our Granite State group changed planes in Baltimore, I witnessed an inspiring moment in an airport men’s room. As I attempted to coax a paper towel out of an automatic dispenser by waving my wet hands, nothing happened. I stepped aside to let the next guy try his hand. Bingo. Paper towel comes out and he hands it to me. Then his attempt to get a paper towel for himself failed. I offered my partially wet paper but he declined. The third guy had success and offered it to the guy who gave me his two tries ago. Paying it forward with restroom towels.

While in Florida, we cruised Naples Bay and looked at mansions on the water, including one where we spotted a bald eagle perched on the edge of a swimming pool — no doubt waiting for its daily tuna tartare feeding. We’re not in New Hampshire anymore, Toto.

As we climbed aboard homebound Southwest flight 5001 from Southwest Florida International Airport, word spread among the 19 New Hampshire passengers that, in addition to an impending blizzard brewing in Manchester, an earthquake had hit Bedford hours earlier. Did Dean Kamen drop his wallet?

When we touched down at snowy MHT, I closed my eyes and clicked my Sperry boat shoes together, chanting, “There’s no place like Boca. There’s no place like Boca ...”

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