By TOM ZUCCO
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001
According to recently released figures from the General Accounting Office -- or maybe it was some guy on the local TV news who said it, what's the difference? -- Super Bowl XXXV will bring in about $991-trillion to the Tampa Bay area.
This is the mother of all windfalls. Even Palmetto will feel some love. (Overheard at the media center: "Palmetto? Like the bug?" Uh, yeah. They raise them there. Check it out. The tour bus leaves in 10 minutes.)
And that's just the monetary reward. As we all know, hosting a Super Bowl makes your lawn greener, your breath fresher, your kids above average.
Hey, Tampa Bay. The drinks are on me!
But some people still haven't caught on that, if you work your mojo and dial the right people on your cell phone, you can trade in the Taurus for a Lexus SUV, courtesy of The Big Wazoo.
Of course, these are real people. Not statistics.
But they have all come into direct contact with the Super Bowl, and yet only one of them is raking it in.
Arletha Perry's sinuses were bothering her again. Happens every time she gets too close to certain cleaning products. Trouble is, that's all the time. Arletha works in the housekeeping department at the Wyndham Westshore Hotel, where the Giants are staying.
She's 54, she has six children, and she's been cleaning rooms and offices most of her life. She lives in West Tampa.
She has a routine. The bathroom first, then the beds and the trash. The process takes about 20 minutes. She doesn't complain, except to say that sometimes her back hurts. "The older I get," she said without looking up from the bed she was making, "the worse it gets. But I just put on my back brace and keep going."
She doesn't say much else. There really isn't time. A hallway full of messy rooms are waiting.
"I'm working like this because I didn't get an education," she said. "Didn't get past seventh grade."
Her father disappeared when she was young, leaving her mother to raise 13 children. Perry went to work to help support her family.
"There's nothing hard about cleaning a room," she said. "It's just a job."
Sometimes guests thank her, and once in a while they tip her.
But usually, she never sees them.
Maybe it's the location, stuck here in a strip mall on Kennedy Boulevard. Or the new bakery that opened down the street. Jim Benetos is trying to figure out why the lunch crowd was smaller than usual Wednesday.
Smaller? It's just four days to The Big Wazoo. Moxie's Cafe & Bagels is only a three minute walk from the Wyndham. Shouldn't there be some sort of trickle down? Shouldn't there be some love?
"There might have been something going on at MacDill (Air Force Base)," Benetos said. "And I've heard that a lot of people who live around here are leaving this area until the Super Bowl is over."
Great. More money for the rest of us.
Moxie's serves up a righteous Cuban sandwich, but most of the customers are regulars. Benetos, who left Chicago a year ago to open the restaurant with his wife, said that unless he's really busy on Saturday, he won't open on Sunday.
"The big hotels and restaurants are probably the ones making money," he said. "And the strip clubs."
That's what he needs.
One person who will be raking it in is Lola Castilla, who, at the moment is wearing yellow, elbow-length rubber gloves and rubber boots as she rakes her home's biggest asset -- her front yard.
Castilla, 80, lives in a yellow two-bedroom cinder block house on N Braddock Avenue, two blocks from Raymond James Stadium. Helicopters are flying overhead and trucks rumble non-stop down Himes Avenue.
"It's usually very quiet here," she said.
Depending on the number of SUVs and vans she lets in, she can fit up to 14 cars on her front yard.
She usually collects $10 per car when the Bucs play. But the stakes are higher now.
"I think maybe 20, 25 dollars," she said.
Castilla has lived in this house for 35 years. She raised her two daughters here, and although she's divorced and lives alone now, she has a sister close by. And McDonald's. "I go there just to sit," she said. "And I play the scratch-off games."
Although she loves her house and wants to stay, it's getting to be too much for her.
"I want to get me a trailer," she said. "My niece has a nice trailer. I may move there."
And give up the chance to rake it in when The Big Wazoo comes to town?
"I'll get by just fine," she said.
- Tom Zucco is a staff writer in the Times newsfeatures department.