During the three months that my wife and I wintered in Florida in 2018, we befriended a few small lizards who jumped right into our pool, but no fellow snowbirds.

Our lack of new Florida friendships was the most disappointing aspect of our three-month escape from winter.

We realized that as renters, occupying the smallest house on our palm-tree-lined block of seven-figure-priced homes, we clearly were not magnets for forging Floridian friendships.

Sure, we could have invited neighbors over to our backyard pool, but that would be gauche because everyone on the street had a pool, plus a dock, and plus and most likely a boat. We just had a Toyota

Highlander as our lone water vehicle, albeit good only to a level of 6 inches.

Of course we knew that it would be harder to meet fellow winterers on a residential street than in a high-rise condo facility.

But the conventional wisdom is that you meet fellow temporary Floridians practically by osmosis. I imagined standing in line at an urgent care for sunburn remediation while engaging in snowbird banter on how to stabilize a beach umbrella.

Realizing that our street was a dead-end socially, we did make a decent effort to show up at events and places that would put us in contact with snowbirds.

One of my goals in going to Florida was to take up tennis again after abandoning the game when racquets were wood and I had aerobic capacity. There was a municipal tennis club in our adopted hometown that augured well for accumulating friends.

To make sure I didn’t come across as a complete courtside neophyte, I took four lessons at the club. After the fourth lesson, my instructor said I was ready to play.

He introduced me to an early-morning round-robin doubles group whose leader, Jack, welcomed me and said that I could play right away. The players seemed to range in age from old to really old, so I wouldn’t be run ragged by a 45-year-old kid.

I started worrying when my record of games won/lost got to 4-20; I wondered if I was inducing a “winter of discontent” from my playing partners. On my sixth or so visit, an 80-year-old member told me that I am not “ready for prime time” and suggested that I just go practice.

That was the end of my friends-through-tennis initiative. My new tennis partner was the practice backboard.

Like Florida gators, it was possible that we could make impact on the water, so we did take some inter-coastal waterway cruises. These excursions featured the waterfront properties of the rich and ostentatious.

Our best shot at making acquaintances came on the close quarters of a so-called “gondola” cruise. It was sort of a misnomer as there was no cheery, singing gondoliers, but instead just a weary tour guide with a singsong-y set of obscure facts (miles of canal dredging).

The seating was intimate, but unfortunately the other couple on the gondola steered the conversation so politically slanted that the gondola appeared to be severely listing on the starboard side.

We thought that visits to the dog park would be a great way to make acquaintances. Our expectations were that Cookie, our 11-year-old Boston terrier, would interact with other dogs, which would generate an invitation to hang out with their owners.

Cookie, though, didn’t play. She just walked around sniffing the periphery of the park, often zeroing in on water bowls like a canine divining rod.

We did conduct our longest seasonal conversation with a snowbird couple in the dog park. Much of our chatting was fueled on our common Boston background.

When they left, we did think that maybe should have planned a get-together. We really didn’t anticipate this would be our 15 minutes of conviviality for the season. Well, at least we engaged better than Cookie did.

This winter we do expect to make friends because we will be in snowbird Valhalla, a.k.a., a high-rise ocean-side condo complex. The numbers favor us. Our rental-house footprint held two people — us — but the 17-floor condo silo in that same footprint probably holds 100 snowbirds.

We will just have to prepare a good elevator speech, as follows: “Hi, we are from Belmont, Massachusetts, but don’t hate the Yankees. We are in apartment 4C but are happy there and have no envy if you are in the penthouse. We don’t play cards, but we will look unobtrusively over your shoulder while you play.”

We also will have much opportunity to meet people at the pool and use that great conversation starter, “It seems like it’s less windy today.”

We should thus make snowbird friends; otherwise it’s on to the 50,000-population Villages retirement complex. Hopefully, those numbers favor us.


Bill Levine is a retired IT professional and active freelance writer. Bill aspires to be a humorist because it is easier to be pithy than funny.

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