As some readers of David’s and my posts know, I am a fourth generation Floridian who was “born and raised” in Fort Myers, on Florida’s Gulf coast. Fort Myers was a small town when I grew up and many things we needed, for example, specialty medical care, were not available there. My family spent quite a bit of time driving to Tampa or Miami to obtain things we could not find in Fort Myers. Although we loved going to Miami, particularly when it involved a meal at Wolfie’s Rascal House on Miami Beach, we seemed to go to Tampa more often than Miami. Tampa and Miami are about the same distance from Fort Myers and, prior to the construction of I-75, were accessed via U.S. 41, otherwise known as the Tamiami Trail (this name being derived from combining Tampa and Miami, of course). Thus, Tampa became a focal point in our lives. My dear mother possessed the gift of gab; often, it took her a long time to explain something because she digressed on many sub topics prior to getting to the point of what she was telling my dad or me. We affectionately named Mom’s storytelling style “going around by Tampa” because going around by Tampa conveyed taking the long way home. Soon, the expression “going around by Tampa” became part of our family’s speech pattern and was used to acknowledge anyone who recited needless details, used too many words, or took too much time to explain something that could easily be explained quickly, with few words. I know a lot of people who “go around by Tampa” when telling me something they want me to know. Usually this expression is applied to someone telling me something verbally, but it also applies to written verbosity. Depending on who is speaking to me, I may ask them to sum up what they are saying, get to the point, or use another gentle reminder that my patience and attention have worn thin, but I persist in thinking to myself that some people still “go around by Tampa” when they are not even from, or near, Fort Myers.
I’m from the east coast of Florida, Jacksonville to be specific. Before I met Melissa, I had been to Tampa and a few other west Florida cities only a few times. I certainly knew the basic geography, but not necessarily the most efficient routes to get to places like Ft. Myers, or even Tampa. So, I certainly did not know the expression of “going around by Tampa” when I first heard her say it. One should also keep in mind that I-75 was completed in stages such that one often had to use roads other than I-75 to reach one’s destination in places where I-75 directly connects today. What I quickly learned was that her phrase “going around by Tampa” meant taking an indirect route to get from point A to point B. And, this was, in some ways, literally related to transit. This I could comprehend, and, especially in the days predating GPS devices or Waze type apps, following a route with idiosyncracies as I-75 and I-95 had until they were completed made for some challenges. The 2nd aspect of the expression “going around by Tampa” – that of communicating indirectly – took a little longer to appreciate. Perhaps it was until I got to know Leola, Melissa’s mother, better. Then it clicked. But, Leola is only one of the many communicators I’ve encountered who “went around by Tampa.” And, as it has happened, some of these have been professional communicators – attorneys – who find it hard to tell a complex story without digressing repeatedly. Sometimes one must digress. Sometimes those digressions are educational. Sometimes digressing tempers what would be a harsh message if delivered very directly. But, getting to the point, even if you have to explain how you got there, in the quickest way possible will minimize your score on “going around by Tampa.” And, sometimes, as trial consultants, we have to help clients determine how to get from A to B in the most efficient and effective manner.