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Hill: Time to reexamine our comfort zones


Published:   |   Updated: November 3, 2013 at 02:38 PM

Back when I was commuting from Maximo Moorings near the Sunshine Skyway to downtown Tampa, I was surprised to hear someone say “I don’t go north of Kennedy much.”

Kennedy Boulevard serves as a sort of demarcation line between South Tampa and neighborhoods to the north. Some people who live south of Kennedy seem to pretty much stay on their side of that line for shopping, food and recreation. And there are those on the other side of the street who do the same.

Certainly, Tampa traffic is a factor in that. Even so, I thought that was a pretty provincial attitude.

But I hadn’t considered my own provincialism until recently, when a dog park friend said he’d bought a house in South Pasadena.

I groused. “That’s the end of you at North Shore.”

“Why? It’s only 11 miles and about 15 minutes to get down here,” he argued.

Others in the group of dog park regulars also chimed in.

“South Pasadena is like in another country,” one person said.

“You’ll never come down here again,” another said.

I later got to thinking about my own patterns.

When I was working, I didn’t go to Clearwater or Largo or Seminole or Dunedin or Safety Harbor, unless it was on business. But at least I went sometimes. Now that I’m sort of retired and have plenty of time, a journey west of 34th Street is unusual.

Why is that?

Habit? Comfort? Familiarity? Convenience?

For me, time isn’t a deal-breaker, nor is the traffic.

Maybe it’s some kind of psychic global positioning, or maybe U.S. 19 (34th Street in St. Petersburg) provides some sort of imaginary psychological barrier, much like Kennedy Boulevard.

I’ve always lived in St. Petersburg, but I’ve worked in other communities, including downtown Tampa.

When I began commuting east, my bridge became the Gandy. The rest of the route was the Crosstown Expressway to the Willow Street exit.

Until then, my mall had been Tyrone Square. When WestShore Plaza in Tampa became more convenient, I switched allegiances, and I’ve never switched back.

About a year ago, I moved from Shore Acres to a neighborhood closer to downtown St. Petersburg.

My trips to the Publix at Northeast Shopping Center have remained constant, but even a relatively short move has altered my routes and destinations.

WestShore remains my go-to mall, even though it’s no longer convenient. It’s 16 miles from my house, while Tyrone Square is just six; but for some reason, WestShore seems closer, or maybe just more familiar.

And I’m much more apt to go downtown to eat or shop rather than to the haunts I used to frequent, such as Red Mesa and Applebee’s, Target, Beall’s.

Sure, some of that has to do with the mix of shops and stores and, in downtown, restaurants. But not all of it.

The Target and Beall’s in Gateway on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard are exactly the same distance from this house as from my house in Shore Acres, but they seem much farther away.

What is it that alters daily patterns and habits and sets that psychic global positioning?

Do you have similar patterns and habits? Is there an east-west bias in St. Petersburg similar to the north-south division in Tampa?

Given that I’m supposed to be covering the entire county in this column, maybe I need a reason to go west of 34th Street, or even north of Ulmerton Road.

So help me out.

I was thrilled when a woman sent me an email the other day to tell me about a park in the Walter Fuller neighborhood, where she lives. A visit is on my agenda.

After that, with my psychic global positioning system confused, maybe I’ll just head north to Countryside Mall and check out Caché and Chico’s.

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