Freezing a Floridian

FL native Jan Norris tries to figure out how to wear cold weather clothing.I’m pushing hard to get a bunch of stuff done so I can head back to Cape via Athens, Ohio, this weekend. One of the tasks was to cold-proof my former coworker and bike partner Jan Norris. See, Jan has heard so much about Cape that she volunteered to go along to keep me company. (OK, wormed her way in might be another way to put it.)

This is going to be interesting because Jan is one of those rare birds – a Florida native. You can click any of the photos if you want to see her before her nose freezes off.

Wife Lila, taking pity on her, reached deep into the back of the closet to outfit her for frigid temperatures. “Long underwear? Those are real? People REALLY wear them?” I left the room while Wife Lila explained the rear trap door. I wasn’t sure whether Jan is one of those folks who can learn by explanation or if she needed a practical demonstration, and I sure didn’t want to find out.

You should have seen her try to figure out how earmuffs work.

Here’s how you wear a scarf

FL native Jan Norris tries to figure out how to wear cold weather clothing.Jan was food editor at The Palm Beach Post. There was a time when she and I were exiled into the deepest bowels of the building. Her office was right across from the telecom switchroom where I lived. Our location was sort of like the geographic equivalent of the shortest day of the year: any step you took in any direction put you closer to sunlight.

Newspapers get an incredible amount of swag. Our book reviewer would get close to 5,000 books a year. PR people would send food, wine and other products they hoped would serve as bribes or fodder for product review. Our ethics policy said it had to be turned over to charity. Jan and I co-chaired a twice-a-year book sale and silent auction that raised from $10,000 to $20,000 a year for little-know charities that were below the radar of United Way and the Palm Beach balls.

Working closely together on those projects led me to try to convince Jan that THIS is the proper way to wear a scarf. {Note to Friend Mary: this is the scarf you knitted when I worked at The Jackson Pioneer back in 1964. It’s as good as ever. You did good work.]

Jan and Mother

Key Largo to Key West bike ride 02-25-2001When a bunch of us rode our bikes from Key Largo to Key West, Jan shared a houseboat room with Mother. Shortly after writing the sad story about my mother’s arm, I was talking with Jan about it. “No, that can’t be true. I spent the night with that woman. She didn’t have anything wrong with her arm.”

“You don’t believe me? Let’s call my brother Mark. He’ll tell you the same story.”

“Let’s call Lila. Lila can’t lie.” She had me there.

I dialed the number and handed Jan the phone. “You won’t believe the crazy story Ken was telling me about his mother….”

“You mean about her arm?” Lila asked.

“I spent the NIGHT with that woman. I never noticed.”

I can’t wait to see Jan giving Mother long, furtive glances the whole time she’s in Cape.

We’re staying at the Meth Motel

Jan Norris Bike ride from Key Largo to Key West 02-24-2001My definition of a good trip is when you end up with as many people as you start out with. It’ll be interesting to do a head count at the end of THIS trip. Our first area of conflict may deal with lodging. She was talking about making reservations. I said I don’t do that because I don’t know how far I’m going to drive on any particular day or if I may decide to change routes at the last minute.

She said she likes to stay at a place with chocolates on the pillow. I told her I never look too closely at black objects on my pillows because I’m afraid they may have legs at the places I stay.

I tried to reassure her by telling her the kind folks at the Athens Historical Society had booked us a couple of rooms at The Meth Motel. “That probably means Methodists run it.”

She set the standard for messy

Jan Norris office 03-22-2006_527One great thing about Jan was that any time someone poked fun at MY office, where everything was in a carefully crafted state of chaos, I’d say, “Let’s go for a walk.” It was common knowledge that one newsroom staffer’s job description included “distract fire inspector if he starts anywhere near Norris’ office on the annual walk-through.”

In fairness to Jan, not ALL of the clutter belonged to her. I put the Hula Parrot on her desk when I was giving it a tour of the paper.

I’m sure Jan will have a much different perspective on our trip, but history belongs to the survivor who writes it down. I hope we hit at least one day when it’s cold enough to freeze the hair in her nose.