"Where are you from?" asked the driver for the Las Vegas airport shuttle, as he loaded my bags into the back.
"Fort Lauderdale, Florida," I said.
"How do you stand the humidity?" he asked.
It was 102 degrees in Las Vegas last Sunday, and the driver was fighting his own humidity. A waterfall of sweat ran down into his eyes. The shuttle ticket taker stuck his head in on the passenger side to cool off, and he looked like a drowned dog. My shirt was soaked with sweat.
The next day it was supposed to be 110 degrees in Vegas. By Wednesday the heat index would be off the charts – 132 degrees. Yikes.
But Las Vegasans (Las Vegans?) all said the same thing, "It’s a dry heat."
They believe this with the same touching faith that we believe the sky is blue and the earth is round. In Nevada, they chant it like a mantra, as they load up visitors with bottles of water and search for places to park their cars in the shade. Arizona folks are the same way. Maybe it’s the sun.
Yes, Florida is humid. But I like the humidity. I like air I can swim in. Florida’s humidity feels like I’m wrapped in a warm, scented towel – kinda like the ones I get at the sushi restaurant. Florida humidity is comforting. Sure, I have a permanent bad hair day, but I live in paradise.
That’s the Florida delusion. We believe our weather is perfect. Never mind that hurricanes menace us from June through November. We forget that our summer heat makes south Florida feel like hell’s waiting room. We overlook the January cold snaps that leave us shivering in our sandals.
This is paradise.
The truth is we usually get one perfect month a year. But the myth of the perfect weather brings in tourist dollars and raises property values. We Floridians have to believe it if we’re going to live year-round in a bug-infested swamp.
My friend Debbie Carroll showed me the Las Vegas the locals know.
The desert beauty is more subtle than Florida’s gaudy subtropical color, I told her.
"We locals don't even go to the Strip unless we want to see a show or go with an out-of-town guest," Debbie said. "We also don’t swim in our pools year round. It gets into the 30's during the winter at night and yes, it goes over 100 during the summer."
I braced myself. I knew what was coming next.
"But it’s a dry heat," she said.
So’s my oven, but I don’t live there.