3.14.2023 – one land by two sea

one land by two sea
three if by a computer
enemy is us!

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.

From Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I live and work in a resort community in the Low Country of South Carolina.

I am becoming acclimated to the area and its seasons and by seasons I mean the big ones, tourist and non tourist.

Right now is the down time.

The calm before the wake up storm of Spring Break that precedes the real start of the tourists that hits with Memorial Day.

Everything speeds up but at the same time everything slows down.

During the season, the number of people on the island where I work will triple.

While the population increases, the amount of available space on the roads for traffic stays the same.

As this IS an island, there is but one way on and off.

As population triples, travel time triples.

I like to use the analogy of an hour glass.

You can add more sand, but if you don’t increase the size of the neck of the glass, it will take a lot longer for the sand to dribble through and it no longer is an hour glass.

In March, the traffic increase is a forgone future.

You know its coming but there isn’t anything you can do about it.

You can enjoy the lack of traffic that is one of the major pluses of non tourist season.

That is, until two weeks ago.

I get traffic alerts on my phone from the County Sheriffs office and this one morning I got an alert that due to construction, traffic to the island was running slow.

I checked the Google for travel times and was shocked to see it would take me almost two hours to make the 22 minute trip to work.

To rub salt in it, the Google let me know that if I opted to ride a bike to work, it would take only one hour.

I checked in my office and let them know I would be leaving once traffic died down.

One of my coworkers responded to my text, to “Stay Home” as he was stuck on the bridge to the island and hadn’t moved in 30 minutes.

I continued to monitor the traffic, keeping the over filled hour glass in mind and knowing I would be at the very top of the sand in the hour glass, I waited until the trip showed a travel time of 45 minutes and then I left for work.

As I slowly drove across the bridge, I kept my eye open for the reported construction and I felt a bit cheated as there wasn’t any evidence of any work.

Traffic was the topic of discussion at work that day and the idea that the tourists were here early was raised.

Not this early was the consensus though it was said without conviction but more as prayer.

Then a funny thing happened.

We all left for home.

Once again, traffic collapsed.

Normal travel times for the trip home blew up.

My normal (non-tourist time) 22 minute trip home took 45 minutes.

Again, there was no sign of any road work or construction though folks at work had talked about the dread ‘resurfacing projects’ but there was no evidence of anything like that.

What WAS going on here?

The next trip was worse.

I began to leave home earlier and try to get out of work earlier and while that helped, my travel times were no way near what they had been.

The only thing that made sense was that it was true, the tourists had returned.

The paradigm had shifted.

Was the year round year of tourists that we saw during covid that was created by online schools and remote work now the norm?

I began leaving for my commute an hour early.

It was frustrating.

It was scary.

If it was like this now, what would it be during the FULL SEASON.

The topic became of the ONLY discussion at work.

I know what you are saying.

After driving in Atlanta rush hour for 12 hours, how could a little island traffic be such a pain?


There is a wonderful traffic sign you see in ATL.

It says simply KEEP MOVING.

While it may not be an accurate description of ATL Traffic, it is the MINDSET of the veteran ATL driver.

Keep moving.

There was the benign sense of the overwhelming that took over my brain in ATL and traffic became one homogenous band of brothers with the goal, keep moving.

The traffic would speed up and slow down by osmosis.

Here, the island traffic is made of 30,000 cars maybe with 30,000 independent, free agent drivers who all think that but more those other drivers, they could make it to their destination faster and if you would give then 10 or 15 feet of space, they will show you.

People speed up.

People brake.

People come to a full stop.

All on whim.

In ATL, I would get in my lane, have my music or audio book nd get into this mental travel zone and make it to work.

Now it is full on interactive driving that demands my complete attention or someone was going to get hit.

It was the most frustrating of commutes I have ever had.

For me, looking ahead to worsening traffic as the season progressed, like Tom Sawyer and the fence, “… all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit.”

Then an odd story appeared in the daily paper.

The story was followed up with a news release from the Hilton Head Island Township.

It was kind of a statement, kind of an explanation and kind of an apology.

About a mile after you cross over the bridge onto the Island, you come to a traffic light.

According to the statement-explanation-apology, the town and the South Carolina Dept of Transportation had set up a new computer timing system on this traffic light.

The new computer had not functioned correctly, so the statement-explanation-apology said, and only three cars were able to make the left turn at the light.

More than three cars wanted to make that turn, and cars backed up quickly and filled the left the turn lane and blocked one of the two traffic lanes in the main road to the island.

The construction was this work on this system.

Kind of an AI road construction that wasn’t real.

The traffic was all too real.

I am relieved.

I am a little bit more relaxed.

But I do have a question?



Did it take the powers that be take two weeks to notice?

Boy Howdy!

Welcome to the Slow Country.

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