Many of you have heard that Florence, Ore., where my family and I live, was once again named one of THE best places to retire in the United States. I say “many of you” because, at this very moment, both roads leading into town are clogged with traffic, most of which consists of giant U-Hauls driven by white-knuckled retirees from Florida. My guess is that they were told to evacuate due to hurricane [insert most recent here], and just kept heading west until they (a) hit water again, or (b) found the brake.
An article about our ranking recently appeared in USA Today, and the Florence Chamber of Commerce has been flooded with calls from news agencies wanting to know how it feels to be in the national spotlight, and if, due to the publicity, we expect Kanye West anytime soon.
The truth is, we Florentines have earned ourselves national attention twice before.
The first was in 1970 when, while attempting to dispose of a decomposing whale carcass (by utilizing a well-thought-out plan involving (1) several pints of beer at the Beachcomber Tavern and (2) a truckload of dynamite), several onlookers complained of “being injured” after being struck by a piece of flying blubber roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
Then in 1998, just as our tourism slogan “Stop Your Blubbering and Come To Florence” was losing its steam, we were back in the national spotlight after our citywide search for a pet monkey named “Bobo” was mentioned on the Paul Harvey Show. This led to our next tourism slogan, which I can’t repeat here since, nowadays, petting someone’s “lucky monkey” can mean something entirely different.
As you can imagine, being crowned as one of this year’s Magic Kingdoms of retirement is very exciting for everyone!
Except, of course, for those of us who (1) actually live here and (2) are not retired. That’s because we Florentines must now live up to a national image that, for the first time, doesn’t include a crisis involving some type of mammal. We once had the comfort of knowing that flying blubber, while helping boost tourism, isn’t an amenity most people look for in a retirement community. That has all changed. People now know we have a performing arts center, library, hospital, restaurants and, perhaps most importantly, a large supply of healthy sea mammals.
This has led to an unprecedented number of visitors, many of whom have already made arrangements to have their Lay-Z-Boy drop-shipped by the end of the week. It’s not that we don’t welcome the boost to our local economy; we just want to make it to the store without being struck by a Ryder truck.
So, to that end, we’d like to make two things clear in order to keep the situation under control.
#1: Running past a house and throwing a wad of cash in the yard does not constitute a purchase agreement.
#2: It’s NOT okay to keep circling the city in your moving truck until someone moves out.
As a community, we realize the impact national exposure will have on our small town.
Which is why, as a community, we’re not above blowing up another dead whale or launching a monkey attack in order to keep things from getting out of hand.
(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation and a member of the writing team at Long Awkward Pause. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Disclaimer: Even if you choose Ned’s book for summer reading, you should still use sunscreen.)