In and out of my comfort zone

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

They say travel is good for us because it gets us out of our comfort zone. Living even for a week in a different place and meeting different people presents us with an opportunity to view the world from a different perspective. So Marsha and I journeyed to Naples, Fla. last week to escape a Chicago February. Alas, the weather was pretty warm back home, and I was a bit disappointed there wasn't more suffering from cold and snow. Marsha said I was being mean-spirited. She's probably right.

I knew we were in a very different place when the news featured stories about pythons killing household pets. It seems these snakes, discarded by their moron owners and left to fend for themselves in the suburban jungle, grew large and hungry for poodles and kitty cats. This story didn't last long because the Whitney Houston death tsunami washed every other news story away. I was thinking just how big the story would have been if Whitney had been killed by a python. Now that would be huge.

Naples is known as "The Whitest City In America." No, seriously. I read on the Internet that it won the honor, beating out Bozeman, Mont. and Steamboat Springs, Colo. I saw three black couples while we were there. I was hoping to see a mixed-race duo but was told the last such sighting was in 2009. I couldn't find the Naples Human Dignity and Cultural Pluralism Statement on the city website.

However, Naples is a beautiful place. Magnificent homes, very nice restaurants, shopping (if you're into adding to your decorative debris collections) and, of course, beautiful beaches and great weather. I have to admit that, though I'm not a fan of the 1 percent, they do have a pretty good thing going. It wouldn't be so bad sitting on the veranda of your $5 million mansion, sipping a pina colada, looking at the Gulf of Mexico. You would probably have to hang with other rich people who would go on about Obama being a socialist Muslim from Africa, but nothing's perfect.

As an Oak Park stranger in the strange land of Florida, there were some awkward moments. I was frequently the worst dressed person in the nice Naples restaurants, even when I was sporting my best Eddie Bauer khakis and my newly purchased lavender Arrow shirt with a collar ($19.99 marked down from 40 bucks at Sears — sweet deal). I definitely need to work on my fashionista skills.

My red sunburned look was in marked contrast to the natives' leathery saddle bag skin — the result of decades in the sun. I suspect dermatologists make a fortune here.

Naples is Disneyland for old people. It took a little getting used to, but after a while, I began to feel like a much younger person. Walking along crowded 5th Avenue, zooming past the folks with walkers, canes and shuffling gaits, I felt like Derrick Rose on the way to the basket.

The week went by pretty fast, and I was glad to come home. I missed my children, grandchildren and daily Oak Park routines. As nice as the weather is in Florida in February, I could never live there. Other than glorious weather, there is nothing Florida has that Oak Park/Chicago doesn't have more and better.

I've lived here since 1976. I guess getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing, but getting back into it is even better. Enough. I'm off to shovel some wet snow.

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