Over last summer many folks urged me to write about the traffic problems here on the island. I, in fact, resemble that problem, and perhaps am slightly even responsible for your delayed arrival to some appointed destination this summer. I am sure that not many of you can say that you got stopped this summer for going too slow. I did. But In my own defense I was waiting for passengers to catch up to the train as we left the depot. I could see them in my rear view mirror running to catch up, and I didn’t want to responsible for any heart attacks. But none the less the police informed me that I might be hindering traffic, I think “obstructing” was the term used, but from my point of view, “bringing the island to its knees” might have been closer to correct. That was my plan all along.
One island driver this summer offered me this advice, “ Third world vehicle right of way rules apply here; the bigger the vehicle the more people will get out of your way.” Not bad advice, but until you have spent some quality time sitting in traffic around LA, Boston or New York, you can’t really appreciate the wonderful aspects of driving on this island. I mean, in LA they at least have 24-7 talk radio traffic stations to help you on your way. Here we have loud speakers with live music, wandering pedestrians just trying to get home and no one even thinks to look where they walk. You don’t hear about that during the morning news, no sir.
No, here on the island I’m talking Traffic Jams with a capital T. Nothing in New York compares to the three minutes of total mayhem on Concord and Catawba at lunchtime on a school day. Or how about the first few minutes after the ferry arrives at the Lime-Kiln dock late Friday afternoon? Cabs lined up to the lighthouse, the buses trying to load unsuspecting passengers and pedestrians scattering everywhere, all of them in our way, as we just try to drive home.
And then, how about the lemmings, I mean, visitors, that parade, zombie-like, off the Fox Dock across State Route 357 on a Saturday morning. Hundreds of blank stares following unknowing leaders just looking for coffee or the closest food establishment. They can really bring the downtown to a stop for minutes on end. But, is there any traffic gridlock greater than the Sunday afternoon old car parade? I mean this one rocks. One day, and I am not making this up, there were old cars going into the winery, and out of the Cave in both directions. Half the parade trying to get to the winery while the other half was trying to get to the Goat. I guarantee this would have confounded even the best traffic engineer in the world.
But yet, I am still a bigger slowdown than all of them combined. No one else takes the time to look around, to see the beauty of the island anymore. That’s my job. Go slow, look around, and talk about the past. So many islanders hurry here and there, so busy they don’t even get to stop and look around during the summer months. So it is my job to go very, very, very slowly. Who else will do it? I do it so that the visitors can drink it all in, and see what it is that we like about this place.
Now, I love my car, and think nothing of getting into it and driving from our driveway to the school. Matter of fact, it appears that we all love our cars and we need to drive them even if it is just for 500 yards and back. Don’t get in the way of progress. As I race for the boat with two minutes to departure time, I need room to move, space to park, and no wicked slow drivers in my way.
So the next time you have a chance, stand and watch the traffic on Langram on a summer day. As a traffic lover I recommend you do, because it is a thing of beauty. On a busy afternoon, you’ll see the buses weaving to and fro, the 6 and eight passenger golf carts being prodded forward every so slowly in a “Row, row, row, your boat” fashion, and the mopeds darting haphazardly in and out of it all. Look more closely and you’ll see me. I’m the one with all the cars stacked up behind, all desperately hoping to pass. It’s a thing of beauty, a work of traffic art. We own it. I love it. Now drive carefully, please!