Saturday, September 6, 2014

If Florida is America's wang, Tampa Bay is the dirty draining infected abscess on the swampy underside of said wang.

I've been having fun planning my vacation month -- so far I've got a week in hometown Portland, including a weekend at the beach and later in the month, my wife and I will spend ten days in Florida. Four or five of them will be on the Gulf Coast just south of Tampa and the other will be in Orlando, where my wife has to attend a conference. I, on the other hand, will be learning how to golf -- a charmed life, to be sure.

Thinking about going back to the Tampa Bay area is interesting for me -- I spent over a year there in my early twenties and while I could go on and on, the gist of my experience remains that I followed a girlfriend who probably didn't want me there in the first place to Tampa, all the way from Portland , Oregon and we arrived a few days before 9/11 went down, which was a very different experience on the East Coast compared to the relatively insulated burg of Portlandia. I viewed my surroundings, relationships and experiences while I was in Florida through a thick lens of self-pity covered in a grimy layer of disillusionment that only grew darker as it baked in the Florida sun.

When I was living in Florida I had no plans of going into medicine -- in fact, I didn't even see myself going back to school at all! It was while I was in Florida I took the exam that the State of Oregon requires to be a licensed contractor (and passed) setting up the years where I owned owned a construction company before I moved to Colorado to become a snowboard-bum -- which also didn't happen. If I could sit down with the version of myself that lived in Florida, I'm not sure he would believe that I'm actually very close to becoming a doctor, or that he would or, could become a doctor. I'm not one that holds on too a lot of regrets, and the path that has brought me on this awesome adventure that is medicine is my own and one that I'm thankful for -- but there is always that twingey little part that wishes and wonders what could have been had I jumped on this a few years earlier. It would make certain choices less critical, mostly when it comes to time and wanting to be conscious of trying to limit the years of "extra" training that in turn pushes back a normal-ish family life. It matters not, though.

For most of my time in Tampa, I worked for a small "ma and pa" flooring company called "The Store of Floors." While looking for places to stay in the Tampa Bay area and then, using Google street view I tried to recreate the drive to the warehouse that I hated so much. I think they wanted me there by 5:30 in the morning, meaning I would drive in rush-hour traffic usually in the dark to a place that I didn't much like, with people that I didn't get along with. I can safely say that I was at least a small part of the problem here, though. Nevertheless, it appears that the whole operation is now out of business. I could find customer reviews as recent as 2013, but the website is down and the building is now a tow-truck company's. Bill and Kathy were the couple that owned the place, and they were no spring chickens 13 years ago -- I do hope they are off enjoying retirement somewhere nice -- where do people in Florida go to retire? Bill was a stand-up guy -- Kathy, his wife, however was not as nice and I remember trying to avoid her shrill shriek and disapproving glare just about every morning.  But with the advantage of time and a different perspective, I can see she felt like she was defending her business and life's work from, well, I'm not sure what from -- even at my worst I was still a good employee -- relatively speaking. Perception is reality.

If they were still in business, would I stop in and say hi? I don't know. What would I have to say to them? I guess, on some level I would want some validation. Of all the people in my life, they were not players who believed in me or saw some potential, etc. They took me at face value, which was some 21 year old kid who they needed for backbreaking labor. I could tell them that the experience working for them helped to form my opinion that I needed to find a career with freedom, satisfaction and monetary rewards above and beyond floor installation -- which they did, but by no means were they the catalyst that brought this notion to life. Knowing myself, I'd probably just drive by their warehouse and reminisce a little bit. However, I will do more than drive by the Cuban restaurants that I've missed all these years -- I can smell the pressed cuban sandwiches now!

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