Growing up in my parents’ house in the way back, we blamed middle brother Mike for whatever transgressions caught my mother’s attention. Grossly unfair, of course, since it was usually my sister who dared Mike to do stuff he ought not. He happily obliged.
It’s like that with our island visitors. Key West locals roll their eyes and with a dismissive groan say “must be a tourist.” As though only tourists do dumb stuff. Well, here it is, smack on the cusp of Grumble Season, and with so few visitors on the island (at least compared to the past two Covid-inspired summers), stupid stuff is still happening.
Clearly, either Key West locals have learned from our most clueless visitors or, as I prefer to think, there are just some things that we’ll all try to get away with if no one’s looking. And, for what it’s worth, most of them involve various methods of transportation.
Five things Key West locals do that we blame on tourists:
- Wrong way on one-way streets: OK, so I’ll admit I do this one. Not in my car, heaven forbid, but, for sure, on my trike. I mean, I live in the middle of the block on a one-way street so if there’s nary a car in sight, I am not going around two-and-a-half sides of a block just to get to the corner. One of my neighbors yells at me when I do this — and then said neighbor does exactly the same thing. I don’t yell. Well, not every time, anyway.
- The island rolling stop: Many humans assume a stop sign is a suggestion. We don’t care that it’s huge and red or that we have been taught for years that stop-means-stop. As a collective, humans simply cannot imagine that a stop sign applies to them, especially when it’s in our neighborhoods. I absolutely will stop at the corner of Petronia and White in my car because to venture forth on a turn is to ask for an unfortunate delay in my plans, but I’ll roll right through it if I’m on three wheels. I do so, however, really, really, really slowly because there are cars and assorted other mobility devices operated by humans who also assume a stop sign is optional. (Most of us treat stop lights seriously, unless it’s at the intersection of Eisenhower and Truman. There, even with a cop car nearing the corner, one best count to five before venturing forth on a green light.)
- Blinkers, AKA turn signals: There are two things we can’t blame exclusively on tourists. First, as with stop signs, using one’s turn signals appears to be optional, especially if one is using the suicide turn lanes on the boulevard. My unofficial survey says it’s locals who whip into the middle lane as fast as one can, sans signal and rip across the oncoming traffic in death-defying oblivion. Tourists, unsure of where they’re going and how to get there, crawl down the middle lane for a quarter of a mile before deciding, oops, wrong place, and then, might or might not, add a turn signal into the mix. Second, if it’s a golf cart signal, all bets are off. Locals and visitors display a honed knowledge of the “I had no idea the signal was on” dilemma.
- Clog up the grocery store aisles: This one we all do, locals and tourists alike, but for different reasons. Locals clog up the aisles chatting up friends. I did it this week; not only did we clog up the aisle, but we bollixed up the intersection, too, because one of us was in the aisle; the other at the crossroad. I love that grocery shopping is a neighborly thing, though I did see a couple sets of rolling eyes before we moved aside. Tourists clog up the aisles because everyone staying in the vacation rental has to come to the store in a gaggle. Four adults discussing menus and wine choices, making calls back to the house to see if there’s a salt shaker, three kids bored out of their minds, doing that teenage shuffle thing and not a one of them paying the slightest bit of attention of my exasperated traffic flow expectations. Just know the rule: Don’t shop on vacation rental turnover day.
- Just read the signs already: One sign I will read. Maybe even a couple if I’m waiting in line. But, Mary, Joseph and the Wee Donkey, I guarantee you this: If you start looking around the island at all the signs, signs, everywhere a sign, you’ll lose your mind. Do this; don’t do that. Handwritten or vaingloriously costing thousands. Sure, if we read them, we’d know what to do, where to go and how to navigate the island. We won’t.
There’s one thing tourists do that as best I can tell locals do not (unless it’s on some dumb dare): Drive golf carts on the multi-modal paths along north and south Roosevelt. Sigh. Perhaps we need a sign. Rolling my eyes.