Cape Gazette
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Around Town

Summer traffic at the beach is a recipe for insanity

By Nancy Katz | Aug 07, 2012

Beach traffic and the difficulty of sustaining your sanity is always a recurring topic of conversation around this time of the year. It’s right up there with religion and politics. Most folks wait until August before they have a complete meltdown, but lately it has arrived as early as July.

You can tell just by their physical appearance those who have encountered this rite of passage. 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; occasionally plaster or foam board is caught in between hair follicles, no doubt a result of banging their heads against the wall. And they almost always have some sort of tic, mostly on their face, although it can involve the right eye too.

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 if you were 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. 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 past the lighthouse circle in Rehoboth, where those who have attended the Fidel Castro School of Driving edge their way into 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 these vehicles.

I can’t put my finger on it, but it reminds of the image 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 eyeball in their eye socket, just a sunken, hollowed-out bone 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 to run an errand. At some point they’ve been sitting behind the wheel so long, they end up using the ashtray for all sorts of things.

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

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