Summertime, and the traffic is crazy

July 16, 2017

Beach traffic and the difficulty of sustaining your sanity is always a recurring topic of conversation around this time of year. Your best friend can tell you, “The doctor said I need a biopsy; it might be cancer.” Today your response is, “Yeah, yeah, but what is the traffic like, is it backed up going north? I’m begging you, try to remember.”

You can tell those who have encountered this rite of passage just by their physical appearance.

People are walking around with tiny little nubs of teeth from having ground their molars into their gums.

Their hair is thinning and falling out, and occasionally plaster or foam board is caught in between hair follicles, no doubt a result of banging their head against the wall. And they always have some sort of facial tic, or maybe a growth the size of another head.

But there are some things about beach traffic that seem to be different this year. It used to be there was a lot of traffic gridlock on Route 1 heading south to get into Rehoboth, Dewey or towns down the line. But now it seems that the gridlock is heading out of town. Some days it’s right out of central casting, depicted as a mob of extras evacuating ahead of Godzilla in a Japanese movie.

I’m not telling you anything new if you hit the perfect storm: a sudden rain, the idea of outlet shopping and a trip to the movies, all on the weekend. Then it becomes a matter of survival of the fittest.

I was in town recently when it started to rain, with lots of thunder and lightning, and a heavy downpour. People weren’t afraid of the weather as they emptied the beaches, pushing and screaming, “Run for your lives.”

The true meaning of the panic was to get out of town ahead of the traffic, especially around the lighthouse circle in Rehoboth, where those who have attended the Fidel Castro School of Driving edge their way to victory, leaving multiple muttering drivers forced to pull over onto the side of the road.

Of course the classic maneuvers never seem to fade away. The summer prize goes to the one where a driver decides at the last minute he or she would like to be three lanes over and doesn’t realize he or she is not the only person driving on Route 1.

It involves lots of slamming of brakes, squealing of tires and the usual finger puppet show. But it’s not just the volume that is right up there with trying to figure out the meaning of the movie “The Matrix.”

There is something unusual this year about the personality of the drivers of some vehicles.

I can’t put my finger on it, but it reminds me of someone being chosen to participate in the Hunger Games. If you look at the face of the person next to you on the highway, there is something a little off.

Perhaps it is that vacant stare. Or it might be they no longer have any semblance of an actual eyeball in their eye socket, just a sunken, hollowed-out bony cavity.

Those are usually the folks that have traveled the most in terms of time; that could mean a short trip to the market or what they think is a quick run up the highway for an errand, by which point they’ve been sitting behind the wheel so long, they end up using the ash tray for all sorts of things.

But life would not be the same without beach traffic. It’s like the signs that no one bothers reading anymore, “Relax, you’re at the beach.” Really?

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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