The Best 'Florida Man' Stories

Mar 3, 2019
Originally published on March 3, 2019 3:11 pm

NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro asks the Miami Herald's Howard Cohen about bizarre stories situated in Florida featuring the so-called Florida Man. Read the full digital story here.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Florida man - a 2013 meme, a Twitter account and now a top-10 list. The Miami Herald published a catalog of the best stories about the world's worst superhero. Howard Cohen is a reporter for the Miami Herald. And he joins me now.

Welcome to WEEKEND EDITION.

HOWARD COHEN: Hey, Lulu. I'm glad to be here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Before we dive into the list, tell us what the criteria was for this top-10 list.

COHEN: So a Florida man story - and a Florida man tends to, generally, have to have firearms, locations, health, bodies of water, theme parks, Walmarts, Taco Bells, fast food places...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

COHEN: ...Like that, objects...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Alligators, alligators.

COHEN: Oh, of course, alligators for sure. Reasons for arrest - injuries because that usually happens. Of course, drugs and alcohol could be part of it. And like we said, animals. And those would include reptiles, in particular. Those are hallmarks of our Florida.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, indeed. So tell us the story that deemed to be the most on-brand Florida man story.

COHEN: A gentleman who threw an alligator through a Wendy's drive-through...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

COHEN: And he said it had all the hallmarks. I mean...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The perfect vector of all these things.

COHEN: Total Florida-ness.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to have to delve a little bit deeper because I do remember this story. I don't remember his motivation. Was there one? Was there a reason why he felt he needed to throw an alligator through the Wendy's (laughter) drive-through window?

COHEN: That wasn't very clear as to why. I don't know. Maybe he didn't get his order fast enough.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They happen in mysterious ways.

COHEN: I'll tell you my - one of my favorites.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Please.

COHEN: OK. You're arrested for auto theft, and you're charged with that. You are then at the jail - at the correctional center. And you are being released on that charge. As soon as you walk through the door as a Florida man did, he immediately broke into a car in the jail's parking lot.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

COHEN: But you didn't notice that the deputy was sitting in the car that you just tried to break into.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

COHEN: So you are turned around and escorted back into jail. Now, can that be - can you get a better Florida man than that?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: No.

COHEN: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That, actually, is a pretty great Florida man. Listen. You've been covering this for a long time. You are a Florida man yourself.

COHEN: Fifty-two years running.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. OK. So when you see these stories, I mean, what gives? The rest of the country wants to know why.

COHEN: Right. Right. Part of what makes it easy to run these kind of stories is in Florida, the open record laws allows you to access police reports, which often come with mug shots. So a lot of times, the mug shots are telling in themself. So those stories are accessible. Florida has just this reputation. I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's because it's so far down south everything wacky settles - just falls from the top of the state and rolls down here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Well, I am from Florida. And so I always look at these stories with a great deal, as you can imagine, of pride.

COHEN: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Howard Cohen is a reporter at the Miami Herald, who's been covering this for a long time.

COHEN: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you very much.

COHEN: Thank you so much, Lulu. You stay well. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.