Most people consider Florida a tropical paradise, but I’m not sure I could live there.
Partly because professionally I would struggle with what qualifies as news. But mostly because I typically try to distance myself from herpes-infected monkeys.
Journalists typically define “news” as unusual events. How can a reporter know what qualifies as unusual in a land where a woman shoots her boyfriend for snoring too loudly, and a man is arrested for climbing atop playground equipment and explaining the birds and bees to shocked children?
We’re a little weird here in Wisconsin. We call water fountains “bubblers,” soft drinks “pop” and bitter rivals “people we don’t like so much.” We strip off our shirts in subzero weather at Lambeau Field and consider wearing flannel “dressing up.” But we’ve got nothing on what’s happening in Florida.
I wasn’t kidding about the shooting over snoring. Last week in Brevard County, a 47-year-old woman elbowed her boyfriend in an effort to stop his snoring. Later on they started drinking and, the next thing the guy knew, he was staring down a shotgun barrel. He tried to leave, but heard a boom and found himself lying in a pool of blood. She claimed her loaded 20-gauge pump shotgun went off accidentally but was arrested. The playground story is legit, too: A 30-year-old told Tampa Bay children, in graphic detail, where babies come from and was arrested as parents rushed their children from the scene.
Here’s an exercise: Which of the following “Florida man” headlines comes from an actual news story?
- “Florida man accused of threatening family ends four-hour police standoff after being promised slice of pizza”
- “Florida man on drugs kills imaginary friend, turns self in”
- “Florida man steals $33K in rare coins, cashes them in via CoinStar machine for $30”
It’s a trick question: Those all are real headlines. And they’re all from the past week. Weird news from that state is so common, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball team is planning a “Florida man” theme night, encouraging fans to break a weird law every inning. Multiple Twitter users employ the handle “Florida man” and share bizarre events happening in the Sunshine State.
Here’s one: Wild monkeys infected with herpes are roaming the state. This is a problem not only for the randy rhesus macaques, but for their human cousins, as people bitten or scratched by the monkeys could contract the virus.
What a Xanadu is Florida, a place where marauding troops of diseased monkeys are running around, threatening to give people herpes. Sometimes, though, the humans are even scarier than the monkeys.
In Tampa, a man was arrested last week for having sex with his pit bull in his yard as neighbors pleaded with him to stop. The 57-year-old man was nabbed after neighbors reported the heinous act, committed in broad daylight. He’ll face charges for animal cruelty and bestiality. Dorothy, we aren’t in Kansas anymore. Be sure to keep a close eye on Toto.
Like I said, things aren’t perfect in Wisconsin. We’ve produced more than our share of serial killers, and we are responsible for Sen. Joe McCarthy. But I don’t see people running around killing their imaginary friends or holding people hostage until they get a slice of pepperoni.
Warm temperatures and ocean views are great, but I don’t think I could live in Florida. I’m not sure I could work there, either. How does a journalist apply news judgment in a place where monkeys run wild, guys get shot for snoring and pit bulls are the victims — rather than the perpetrators — of troubling attacks?
I think I’ll stay here in Wisconsin. We have our share of weirdos, but at least you can trust the monkeys.