Like many of my generation, I left fast pace, aggressive city living for a kinder, gentler lifestyle in South Florida. I sought temporary living accommodations, because I was sure that my housing wants and needs would become more apparent and defined once I settled into the tropical lifestyle, assuming they didn’t change altogether. So, I set out to rent an apartment from among South Florida’s abundant supply of luxury apartment communities.
Once I had made my decision to move I was eager to find a place to live and allotted myself a week in which to accomplish the task. Before leaving for Florida, I started my groundwork and searched online using a variety of websites that cater to the needs of people relocating and seeking housing in Florida. After I arrived in Florida, I picked up a couple of free paperback guides at the local supermarket, which proved more useful than I ever would have imagined. Finding a new home was going to be a snap, I thought.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT, YOU WON’T FIND IT HERE.I quickly learned that sometimes too many options can be (almost) as frustrating as too few, and came down with an acute case of “analysis paralysis” trying to sift through the dozens of possibilities I had before me. Initially, all I really knew was that I needed a place to live and that I wanted it to be somewhere on Florida’s Gold Coast, that vast region stretching from West Palm Beach south to the Florida Keys. With the Atlantic Ocean bordering the region to the east and the everglades to the west, I felt fortunate that my region of interest was fairly narrow, even if it had been longer than I would have preferred.
My next move was to buy a map of the region and select some criteria to focus my search and further limit my search area. Some considerations were more obvious than others were. For example, I knew I’d need a job and that, in my field, the prospects for finding one would dramatically increase with my proximity to the larger, denser urban areas of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. However, I also knew that, with my luck, it was more than a possibility I’d land a job in less likely West Palm Beach and probably the day after the ink dried on my apartment lease in a community in the midst of one of those more prominent cities. I decided to hedge my bet and search within the nondescript area of Southern Palm Beach County-Northern Broward County, somewhat equidistant in space and time between the polar extremes of West Palm Beach and Miami.
In an attempt to further minimize my potential commutation time, I figured it might be a good idea to find a place near the region’s two major north-south highways, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike. Seeing still too many options on my list, I knew that further limiting myself to moderately priced communities would be sure to eliminate both the high end and more affordable extremes. I soon discovered that seeking moderate pricing would also narrow the geographic scope of my search, as I would now be looking too cheap to be near the Atlantic Ocean, but expensive enough to avoid sleeping with the gators in the glades.
Although I had done my best to winnow my list, I still had too many communities to evaluate in detail within the week’s deadline I had set for myself. I also knew that the kind of evaluation I needed to do would require more than a seat-of-the-pants review of the various apartment websites and paperback guides that I had at my disposal. It was time to get out in the field and kick a little dirt and wrestle with some bricks and mortar.
YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE. How hard could that be? I wondered. I had limited myself to a mere twenty-mile radius centered somewhere on Military Trail, between Boca Raton and Delray Beach, and I already possessed the complete addresses for all the communities I intended to visit. All I had to do was plan a logistically sensible itinerary, hop in my car and go take a look. As I started to plot each day’s itinerary on my map, I realized that having an address offered little insight into a destination’s location. After all, this was laid back Florida where residents come and go at a leisurely pace and show little concern about how long it takes to find their destination. Sure, South Florida has addresses, but no one abides by them, not even the mailmen. Around these parts, if you want to know where to go, you ask someone for directions, and get accustomed to hearing them in terms of mileage, number of traffic lights, or counting local landmarks like Winn-Dixies or Exxon stations.
I learned quickly that most street addresses are useless, especially those on streets that don’t extend more that a couple of miles, or those on streets that change their names occasionally along the route. Adding to the confusion is the fact that every other town seems to have a road, street, avenue, or boulevard named “Atlantic” or “Ocean,” or has street numbers and directional designations that from the perspective of passersby seem to emanate from some fictitious place. Streets that don’t calibrate evenly like, for example, NE (Northeast) 47th street, followed immediately by NE 52nd street, and then NE 89th street are bad enough. But, when they intersect, say, SW (Southwest) 11th avenue, you start to wonder if you’ve found a new wrinkle in our universe’s space-time continuum.
Many apartment communities just make matters worse by concocting their own “exclusive” street addresses specially designed to give their locations cache, even if they lack a spatial context. In reality, the addresses exist only on their own community site maps and usually relate to nothing more than a long driveway extending from public access roads to their front gates.