Class Differences in Tampa

The scene. Having coffee and toast at a Cuban diner in the Ybor City section of Tampa Florida Saturday with my mom and three of her friends. Wonderful Saturday ritual. The topic, class differences in Tampa. One friend, a former nun for 11 years, and now a kindergarten teacher smiles and says to me, “Since you’re staying in South Tampa, you may have noticed your shit doesn’t stink.”

At least on the surface, there’s lots of well-to-do people in South Tampa, Derek Jeter among them. I work out at a swanky athletic club with unlimited shaving cream, razors, shampoo, towels, mouthwash, and q-tips. The car of choice appears to be a Lexus, Porsche, or BMW.

Walking into the club Monday morning I overheard (remember I’m eavesdropping on you) a woman in tennis whites tell her friends, “I don’t get down here (Tampa) very often, but for tax purposes it’s where they think I live. It’s the only address I have.”

No one chats me up (maybe because I look like death warmed over having just run in the Dante’s Inferno that is Tampa’s August weather). Are wealthy people less friendly?

In the four lane pool, one is marked “open swim” and three “lap swimming”. I’m the only one lap swimming, but that doesn’t keep a few of the four kids playing in the pool from jumping into my lane two and a half times while their parents silently watch. What the hell? They leave with their noodles all over the place, but why should that be a surprise when adults walk away from their ellipticals without wiping them down and the showers are strewn with wet towels. Guess that’s what the workers are for.

I confess, I’m a bit conflicted. I like the plushness, the outdoor 25m pool, the carpeted locker room, the showers that stay on all by themselves (at my “Y” you have to punch a knob every minute), and of course the q-tips, but really dislike the general unfriendly/entitled/disconnected vibe.

Yet, I have to guard against painting with too broad a brush. My mom is a member and she is extremely friendly, appreciative of everything she has, and socially aware. I’m sure there’s at least one other member like her.

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