Saturday, December 1, 2012

Socioeconomic Disparity as Shown by Duane Zimmerman's Journey to Work (Allen Kupetz)

Rollins graduate Duane Zimmerman died on January 23, 2009 at the age of 64, leaving behind a legacy at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Zimmerman’s route from his home to the ORMC almost certainly consisted of a single uninterrupted route east along State Road 408, however to capture a more realistic view of Central Florida I recreated a meandering detour through the homes of the hinterland factory workers. This can be done under the assumption that, perhaps, the 408 was under heavy construction or that, being a toll road, Zimmerman had neither change nor an E-Pass, and that the only freeway, Interstate 4, goes north-south rather than east-west, and thus does not help Zimmerman. State Road 50, also known as Colonial, always slows to a crawl during rush hour, so Zimmerman would not follow this road either. Therefore the route I took, and the route Zimmerman may have taken from his home under the aforementioned assumption, would be east on Old Winter Garden Road, south on John Young Parkway, east on Orange Center Boulevard and continuing onto West Gore Street, and finally turning south onto Orange Avenue. Perhaps this route is unlikely because it would take him through three of the most dangerous and infamous parts of Orlando (Orange Blossom Trail, Pine Hills, and Parramore), but it shows the starkest contrast between both his suburban lifestyle and urban career and the blue-collar world in between. Throughout this photo essay I will examine the differences between Zimmerman’s residential area and the residential area of those who live closer to the urban core.
Zimmerman’s day began in his Hiawassee home next to Fellowship Bible Church.  Situated between the 408 and Old Winter Garden Road, Zimmerman’s home is a white two-story figure that appears small only because of the large swath of land that surrounds it. Though it is clearly not a carbon copy of prefabricated homes along the block the way homes were in Levittown, with the black demarcating fence and impressive lawn it is still clearly a model of suburbia.
Zimmerman’s home lies practically under the 408, but he would choose not to turn on to the toll road. He would be reminded of this decision the entire trip by signs directing him to the 408. The signs are easy to ignore, but it is not so easy to drive blindly by the flags decorating nearly every building. These flags’ owners come from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and even Rwanda. This is an area of immigrants.
Billboards decorate the sides of increasingly decrepit roads, many advertising in Spanish or for trial attorneys or sometimes both at the same time. Many of the residents here are not only immigrants or children of immigrants, but most are of Hispanic heritage and have not given up their Latin roots. They are also, much like most immigrants, part of a low socioeconomic status.
Nearing the end of his trip Zimmerman would pass under I-4, the one link from Daytona on the Atlantic Coast to Tampa in the Gulf. This is the only practical way across the peninsula, yet the fault lies not with developers but with Florida’s natural landscape; the soft swampy marshland of Central Florida prohibited further interstate development during the 1950s when Eisenhower first implemented the Interstate Highway System.
While Eisenhower’s planners may have not been able to overpower nature, the more contemporary developers at the Orlando Regional Medical center certainly could. Millions of gallons of concrete allowed for terracing around the ORMC site, with stereotypical Florida palm trees increasing in height the higher they were on the terracing. This is a small matter – it is not the straightening of the Kissimmee River – but it shows that Man’s technological ability has matched his aesthetic desires since the Cold War.
Should one be lucky enough, one might see an Air Care helicopter take off from or land on an ORMC rooftop. During his time as facilities administrator, Zimmerman helped develop this – a lifesaving program that allows a helicopter to drop in and pick people up much faster than any ambulance could when forced to crawl along Central Florida’s poorly designed infrastructure.
Between Zimmerman’s suburban home and his job on the very outskirts of Downtown Orlando, one can see the poverty and urban sprawl that accompany large clusters of minorities and immigrants throughout America. Near Zimmerman’s home one could find teenagers loitering by gas stations and strip malls. Outside several buildings connected to ORMC one could see doctors drinking coffee during quick breaks or patients’ relatives walking with a slow gait and heavy shoulders burdened by the misfortune of sending a loved one here. However, in between these areas of middle- to upper-middle class, one finds no such activity. On Orange Blossom Trail, between a Popeye’s Chicken and a liquor store designed like a prison, one is bound to find a sad individual – hopefully clothed – limping across the street, oblivious to any cars he may walk into or that may run into him, the effects of some addiction evident in his unsteady walk and dropping from his wet, glazed eyes down his cheeks and onto his trembling lips. The fear one feels as one drives by signs directing one to Pine Hills and Parramore cannot be articulated. This sadness, this fear, is the product of an outsider status that has yet to be shaken. Whether this status is caused by time in the United States (e.g., first- and second-generation immigrants) or socioeconomic inequality (e.g., the inhabitants of Pine Hills and Parramore), the status is an outlier that does not fit with the linear model of Zimmerman’s middle-class suburbia to the upper-middle class of Orlando’s urban core.

Primary Source

Harlan News-Advertiser Staff, “Remembrance: Duane Zimmerman,” Harlan News-Advertiser, February 6, 2009, accessed November 3, 2012,

Secondary Sources

Jon Teaford, The Metropolitan Revolution (Columbia University Press: 2006).

Gary Mormino, Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams (University Press of Florida: 2005)

My Clearwater. “Map of the Central Florida Area.” Last modified September 13, 2005.

Neighborhood Scout. “Crime Rates for Pine Hills, FL.” Last modified 2012.

Forbes. “Orlando.” Last modified 2012.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. “Welcome to the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System Web Site.”

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