Throwing an alligator through a Wendy’s drive-through window?
Only in Florida.
In October, 2015, Joshua James became a classic example of a “Florida Man” when he threw a live, 3-foot alligator through the drive-through window of a Wendy’s in Loxahatchee, Fla.
It’s an action that earned him charges of unlawful possession and transportation of an alligator, as well as a top spot on a new list of the top 10 “Florida Man” stories.
So what exactly is a “Florida Man?”
The Miami Herald‘s Howard Cohen started listing a few hallmarks of a typical “Florida Man” story to NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro.
“A Florida man tends to generally have to have firearms, locations help — bodies or water, theme parks, Wal-Mart’s, Taco Bell’s fast food places like that — alligators for sure, reasons for arrest, injuries,” Cohen said, “Drugs and alcohol could be part of it, and like we said, animals, and those would include reptiles in particular.”
The volume of wacky stories involving elements like these in Florida led to the trope of a “Florida Man” becoming infamous. In 2013, a Twitter account popped up devoted to curating these “Florida Man” stories, and “Florida Man” quickly became a meme known as “the world’s worst superhero.”
— Florida Man (@_FloridaMan) February 25, 2019
Not to be left out, a “Florida Woman” twitter account quickly followed, proving that absurdity exists among both genders.
Florida Woman Holds Up Mail Truck With Toy Gun, Flees on Tricycle https://t.co/sCavp0JZv6
— Florida Woman (@_Flor1daWoman) December 28, 2018
Wondering how to assess the true level of Florida-ness in a “Florida Man” or “Florida Woman” story?
As it turns out, a new analysis of “Florida Man” stories, conducted by the Miami-based Injury Claim Coach, looks at precise precentages of Florida hallmarks present in sample “Florida Man” articles.
For example, 13.3 percent of their sample articles involved alcohol, 12.5 percent involved assault without a deadly weapon and 4.9 percent mentioned alligators.
From this, the Injury Claim Coach’s team created the F.L.O.R.I.D.A. man Scoring System to “quantify the “Florida Man”-ness of any news article appearing on the web.”
In their system, nearly every “Florida Man” story contains one of the following categories: Firearms (or other weapons), Locations, Objects, Reasons for Arrest, Injuries, Drugs and alcohol, and Animals
There’s one more key characteristic to “Florida Man” though — humor.
“For the most part, they’re wacky and like you just laugh,” Cohen said.
But, why are there so many wacky people in Florida?
Part of it is due to the state’s open record laws, he said. These laws allow reporters to access police reports and mug shots.
“So those stories are accessible. A lot of times the mug shots are telling in themselves,” Cohen said.
“Florida has just this reputation. 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.”
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most Florida of them all?
Besides the tale of Joshua James, here are a few other top stories that scream “Florida Man,” along with their original list ranking:
#2. Florida man and reptile store owner, Benjamin Herman Siegel, slapped his employees with a bearded dragon lizard after swinging it around in the air. He also put the lizard in his mouth during the odd attack.
#6. A naked Florida man, John Hennessey, danced in a fire and chanted in gibberish while wielding a knife. When officers arrived on scene, he grabbed a large wooden stick and started swinging it at them. Police later guessed that Hennessey may have consumed psychedelic mushrooms.
#8. Florida man Klaid Karpuzi was released from jail on an auto theft charge. Soon after he walks out the door, he broke into another car in the jail’s parking lot. But he didn’t notice a deputy sitting in the car that he had just tried to break into. So he was caught and marched right back into jail for a second attempted auto theft charge. Of this story, Cohen asked, “Can you get a better Florida man than that? ”
#9. Florida man Sean Johnson walked into a Walmart and took a stuffed horse toy off a shelf. He then went to the store’s bedding department, where police said he masturbated using the stuffed animal. Afterward, he put the toy, covered in his DNA, back on the shelf.
Florida man Dominick Breedlove interviewed for a job at a Kohl’s. Moments after the interview, Breedlove was caught shoplifting two pairs of women’s running shoes from the same store.