Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Women at Work
by James Glaser
September 5, 2008

Here I am in the Deep South in North Florida discovering a part of America I have never seen before. Things jump out at me as being very different than the rest of the country. Some of those would be the speech patterns people use and the vocabulary that goes along with those patterns, the food people eat down here, and the physical environment with a year-round growing season, with its heat and humidity.

There are other less obvious things going on down here that take a while to notice, and one of those is the large number of working women in the South. In Northern Minnesota it was the norm that a woman would be home with her children, at least until they started school, and for many, children starting school meant that Mom became Teacher. The home schooling movement has taken a foothold in the Northland.

As I have written before, it is hard to believe that Tallahassee has enough children to warrant a public school system, but the truth is there are thousands of children here. It just seems like children are not allowed outside. This past Labor Day weekend, even though I drove around a lot, I saw not one child at play.

Last year while I was searching for a house, driving through countless neighborhood streets, I do not recall ever seeing kids playing in their yards, let alone having a game of kick ball in the street. The truth is they hide children down here.

Getting back to women working. In over two years of living here, I have only met one woman who stays home with her children, and she runs a day care in her home.

It could be economics, wages are lower in the South and that surprises me because living costs seem at least as high as Northern Minnesota. Houses cost way more down here, as do property taxes and insurance. Yes, you have to heat your home up North for about seven or eight months a year, but you have to cool your home down here at least that long. Homes down here have way less insulation, and single pane windows are the norm for any house over twenty five years old. Up North the frost on the inside of any single pane window rotted out the sill a long time ago, and it would have been replaced with something more efficient by now.

So, my guess is that a higher percentage of women in the South work, because of the lower wages and higher living costs. That might not hold true in the rural areas down here, but I believe it to be true in any city the size of Tallahassee or larger.

Fall Cool Down

It might be hard to think that it is getting cooler down here with the day-time temperatures still up in the nineties, but yesterday morning it was 69, and today the humidity is at 51%. After Tropical Storm Fay came through here, the humidity was close to a 100% for about a week as things started to dry out. Now you can see that all the plants enjoyed the deluge we had, there is new growth on everything, and in some places the ground is covered with mushrooms.

Tallahassee has been in a drought condition for about two years, so those rains were really needed. I am sure we will still have some really hot days, but if you are an early bird, it is nice to get up to some cooler temps. When you wake up, and it is in the high seventies with a humidity about 90%, it is hard to get a start to the day. If you can start work with it cool, you can get in a few good hours of work before you get soaked in perspiration.

One thing nice though when thinking about fall down here is that I'll never wake up find to a foot of unexpected snow on the ground, nor will I have to put out my big extension cord, so that if the temperature drops I can plug in the car. I am looking forward to some mornings in the 50s, and when the day's high is only 75, that will be fine with me.

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