The Cat 5s share a thousand square feet, half a dozen windows, two litter boxes (albeit they are huge), an automatic food bowl and a water dish. Territorial squabbling is inevitable. Shrieking like an Irish banshee when Michael the actual Cat 5 stalks her is Cat 4’s (that would be Jersey) default response. What the neighbors think I haven’t asked.
That’s what happens when you cram cats into an unsuitably small space. I read somewhere that an indoor cat needs 18-20 square feet of space, but that’s just nuts as every cat owner knows — unless you’re thinking temporary shelter cage. (Probably written by a dog person.)
People are no different. Crammed onto a two-by-four island (about half of which is Old Town), we get testy. Little things annoy us and we huff over imagined slights. Think of it this way: Key West has about 209,088,000 square feet to spread among 25,000 of us plus thousands more visitors. At least half that square footage is parking lots, buildings, streets and just stuff, leaving precious little room for us not to bump elbows or step on toes.
No wonder I sometimes feel like Jersey the Cat 4. I mean shrieking like that Irish banshee seems sensible enough, right? Isn’t that what we all do when Key West’s relatively minor irritations get the better of us?
Key West’s (minor) irritations
Irritations like these:
- Snow dogs: You know snow dogs. Those are the new-to-the-neigborhood pooches who come to Key West in the winters with their snowbird parents. They stinky puddle on the pebbles in front of my gate. (The pooches, not the people. Just clarifying. Although come to think of it, there are people who, well, anyway…) They poop in the flower bed at the corner. It gets picked up most of the time, but not always. They bark at annoyingly awkward times. But, dang it, they are so cute when we greet each other on my walks around the neighborhood. I love the juxtaposition of grumpy owner and waggingly happy dog. OK, so maybe snow dogs are OK.
- Cruise ships: I know this makes me the unpopular kid, but cruise ship visitors don’t bug me much. The ships do; big, ol’ nasty things with no redeeming environmental value. But the visitors? Heck, they get whistled back to the ship at the end of the day and they’re gone. Can’t say that about the crowds since 2020. They tend to stick around.
- The crowds: Speaking of cruise ships, since Covid we’ve gotten what we asked for: fewer cruise ship day visitors and more visitors coming for longer stays. Ka-ching. I knew when I moved here that Key West was a tourist destination and home to tens of thousands of transplants. Nothing much about that has changed in our 200 year history. Well, yeah, there are a boatload more of us and that’s not great, but, really, we stopped being an isolated, imaginary island paradise somewhere around 1825.
- E-Everything That Moves: Mary, Joseph and the Wee Donkey, we seem to have attached a battery to any device that can get us from the Cow Key Bridge to Truman Waterfront. Makes me cra-cra watching out for the weavers and dodgers. From 12-year-olds driving golf carts to grandma on an electric skateboard, it’s a testament to human survival skills that more of us aren’t in leg casts or coffins. I watched a youngish man on a bike cut catercorner across Fifth Street and Roosevelt with three — count them — three young kids biking behind him like baby ducks with mom bringing up the rear. Why they aren’t in the hospital is only because every driver came to a screeching halt.
- “Sorry, but, no”: That covers a multitude of Key West irritations. Sorry, but, no, health care can be slim pickings. Sorry, but, no, we can’t get to your repair for at least three months. Sorry, but, no, there’s no one to volunteer, serve on your board, write a big check. Sorry, but, no, we can’t do that because we don’t have enough staff.
Key West irritations are the stuff of bad days, happy hours that run long or, as my mother was wont to remind me, not having enough to do. But there something else my mother said: “But, you live in Key West.” Six words. Thanks, Mom.