Last week a very close friend from New York City came to visit.  He comes down twice a year to fish, dance, and enjoy the Keys nightlife.  While fishing in 35 mile an hour plus winds, we discussed the economic woes the Keys had been experiencing and what could be done to make us a more desirable destination.  He said, “What you wrote in your last article about being friendly and helpful would be a great first step.”  His experience in the Keys was mixed; some people were nice.  He was warmly welcomed at his hotel, when accompanied by my wife and me he felt wanted, he was accepted freely at a party by students of the Dance Center and our Captain and mate were great fishing hosts.  His dining experiences were wonderful.  When he was ‘on his own’ he did not always feel as comfortable and welcomed. He felt that ‘locals mentality’ (making locals/friends a priority) should carry over to a tourist.  As a tourist, he was treated as though he was an inconvenience to employees, interrupting their time at work.  My friend is very well traveled and coming from New York, saying how indifferent some of the Keys folks could be- was unsettling to say the least.  He went on to compare his experiences in Cabo San Lucas where he has a time-share and visits frequently.  “The locals go out of their way to make sure every need or desire is fulfilled.  They are friendly, pleasant and outwardly grateful to the American tourist.”  He went on to say, “Everyone you pass on the street smiles and acknowledges your presence and I can’t wait to go back because of the way that I’m treated.”

    Can you imagine if everyone in the Keys adapted that kind of attitude where visitors were treated with open welcoming arms, serviced with smiles and treated as a long lost friend?  It almost sounds like a movie.  Think about it… the beautiful Florida Keys – The Friendliest Place in America.  Forget about how much more business we would have; think about how proud you would be to live in such a place.  Get the dogs to stop barking and we would be in Heaven, but that’s another matter. 

  Before I moved to Manhattan everyone warned me how rude New Yorkers could be.  I found that to be completely un-true.  Everyone I smiled at smiled back, it was easy to engage someone in conversation, information and advice were freely doled out.  It all boils down to this; you are treated on how you treat others.

    It’s all about attitude, realizing that it takes the same amount of energy to be happy as sad, pleasant as opposed to indifferent.  As a small community we should work together to make certain each and every visitor has the experience of their lifetime.  Make them feel like a local and you will have a life long visitor to the Keys.  Treat them as a good friend and you may wind up with a friend. We live in ‘Paradise’ we should act like it. Only then will we fulfill our destiny to become the Friendliest Place in America.

    Dream the life you live and live the life you dream

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