30K vs 250K

So I just got back from 2 weeks in Florida.  I must say that about 10 minutes after landing I realized that I no longer considered Florida home and about 45 minutes later I no longer even ‘liked’ Florida.  Don’t get me wrong it is not the individual people in Florida I dislike or the shopping malls or fast food outlets (those I really like), I think I just dislike the difference in the populations and the mindsets that they bring.

In Juneau, my current home, we have around 30,000 people.  This sounds like a reasonable number and it is, but it seems smaller when you realize that there are literally no roads in or out of the town.  Yes, we are the state capital, we are the center of government and the cruise ship industry for Alaska, but we have no way of getting out of town with out either catching a really long ferry ride and then a really long car ride or taking a plane.  This make 30,000 people seem very quaint.  Throw in the fact that everywhere you look there are mountains hemming in the flat areas of land and it makes it seems smaller.

By comparison the ‘Space Coast’ of Florida where I grew up has a population of 500,000 people.  This of course is several towns and cities all in one county, but the track of towns and other areas I called home still had a population of about 250,000.  This seems huge.  There are no hills in Florida and I swear it seems you can see both sides of the state it’s so flat.  You want to go somewhere else? Another town? Another State? Hop in your car.

What does this difference in population boil down to? Take traffic for an example.  In Juneau if you cut someone off in traffic there is a good chance you will see them again that afternoon or the next morning.  Worse, there is a good chance you see them out and about.  You might even sit down at a meeting with them.  Larger population?  Who cares? Cut them off.  I accidentally turned in front of a motorcycle just before I left (totally my fault, I just misjudged how fast he was going and how much space I had). I floored my car and tried my darnedest not to inconvenience him.  I felt so bad I apologized at the next light and waved it off as no big deal, I felt bad.

Within 20 minutes of landing in Florida and heading to my destination in a rental car I had been cut off 3 times and had to slam on my breaks several times.  I am not a bad driver, I can shift from being a defensive to aggressive driver as necessary having learned to drive among so many people, this was simply people thinking ‘I need to get to my destination as quickly as possible.’

Not everything is roses of course, I mean, getting good service in a restaurant in a town where unemployment is half the national average (and hence the burden would be on the employer to train and hire new help) is a bit tough, but in general the town just seems … calmer and easier going and that is something I severely missed while I was on vacation.  I had some great fun, which I will talk about in another post, but if I had to pick one of the two places to live, I’d still choose the 30,000 people.

I missed them all.

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