Kick ass carl Hiaasen

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Welcome to South Florida

Carl Hiaasen's South Florida stress test

Now you can figure your stress quotient

October 29, 1985

Once again the Guardians of Miami's Image have been stung by a bolt of rotten publicity—the national Urban Stress Test that ranked the city dead last, citing overcrowding, lousy water and rampant crime.

The establishment has resounded with the usual indignation, outrage and silly whining about how darned unfair the whole thing is. (I don't know precisely what the Chamber of Commerce thinks Miami's national image is, but I promise that the rest of the country wasn't exactly stunned to see us at the bottom of this list.)

At the risk of joining the apologist chorus, I have to admit that the stress test was sort of a cheap shot: There's no way to compare Miami with any other city in America. We're a special place and we deserve our own special standards.

So here's the South Florida Stress Test that I'm proposing for next year.

Scoring is simple: 30 points or less means minimum stress—you're doing fine. Forty to 80 points means it's time to restock the Valium.

Anything over 80 points and you'd better pull the kids out of school, call the moving van and start house-hunting in a quieter place. Say, Beirut.


1. On the average, how many nights a week are you awakened by the sound of gunfire?

  • Every night (10 points)

  • Four nights or fewer (5 pts.)

  • I sleep right through it (1 pt.)

2. Judging by your experience, what kind of gunfire is it?

  • Saturday Night Special (1 pt.)

  • MAC-10 or Uzi (5 pts.)

  • Medium-range artillery (10 pts.)

3. A safe neighborhood means less stress. If you could see over the eight-foot wall around your neighbor's house, you'd discover that he is:

  • A run-of-the-mill drug smuggler (1 pt.)

  • An exiled dictator (5 pts.)

  • An international arms merchant (10 pts.)

4. How many times have you been taken hostage by a deranged lunatic who was not a member of your immediate family?

  • Only once or twice (1 pt.)

  • Three or more times (5 pts.)

  • I am currently a hostage (10 pts.)

5. The last time a pipe bomb went off in your neighborhood, how long did it take the police to respond?

  • Less than 12 minutes (1 pt.)

  • Less than 12 hours (5 pts.)

  • I'm still waiting and the damn Cadillac has burned to the rims (10 pts.)

6. Water quality is vital to the quality of life. When you turn on the faucet, what do you see?

  • A clear fresh liquid (1 pt.)

  • A liquid of some sort (5 pts.)

  • The bouillabaisse scene from The Exorcist (10 pts.)

7. Recreation is one way to relieve stress. What do folks in your neighborhood do in their spare time?

  • Sacrifice live goats to the gods (1 pt.)

  • Work in a clandestine coke lab (5 pts.)

  • Train at a secret Everglades camp for the invasion of Nicaragua (10 pts.)

8. What happened the last time you went to the beach?

  • A college kid got sick all over my sandals (1 pt.)

  • I tripped on a bale of grass and broke my ankle (5 pts.)

  • I got picked up by the Border Patrol (10 pts.)

9. Culture is important to sophisticated urban dwellers. What was the last major cultural event you attended?

  • The taping of ABC's "Battle of the Network Stars" (1 pt.)

  • A dinner-theater production starring Bert Convy (5 pts.)

  • Charo live at the Eden Roc (10 pts.)

10. A summer vacation is one way to beat South Florida stress. Where did you spend yours?

  • Disney World (1 pt.)

  • A military dungeon in Cartagena (5 pts.)

  • The median strip of I-95 (10 pts.)

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