February 3, 2007

Marco Island | Dealing with Traffic

Or another title for this could be "Shopping Survival Tatics in Southwest Florida"

I crossed the SS Jolley Bridge yesterday on what is best called a shopping adventure. Why is this little trip significant? Well it is season and driving around here when all the snowbirds are here becomes a challenge. Each day it gets a little more difficult with the influx of the snowbirds. It also makes me start counting the days until Easter, when most flock home.

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the snowbirds; they are keeping the local economy going and make it so that 75% of the time Paradise is just that. It is around this time that we get a little frustrated. Our slower pace is challenged, life isn't so peaceful. We have to deal with traffic and longer wait everywhere. This isn't the time to be visiting Paradise... May through November, now that is the time to be here. That is really when it is wonderful to be in Southwest Florida!

There were two mistakes I made this trip - First it was because I needed to go shopping and all the good shopping is in Naples. There are limited things to do in paradise, beach, boating, bingo and shopping. Bingo is at 6pm. Since it was raining the snowbirds were going to go shopping. My second mistake was venturing out at 9am and getting back to the Island at 4pm. Snowbirds don't like to be out before or after those hours. They want to miss the morning commute rush so they won't leave before 9am and they must rush home for the early bird specials so they can be on time for BINGO! And if it wasn't bad enough it was a Monday, most snowbirds arrive on Saturday, so by Monday they need to shop for stuff they forgot, hence why Wal-Mart was not one of my stops.

I lived in NJ for several years, my son was born in NJ, and I like NJ in general. I think that there is some special rule that applies to those with NJ plates that they don't have to follow the rules of the road. I moved here to get away from Jersey drivers. So did most of the state of New Jersey it appears! Every other plate is from NJ on Marco Island. Want a target area to market to for Marco Island, but I digress.

To start, I was cut off by a gentleman as I was getting onto the bridge heading into Naples. Does nobody know how to zipper merge anymore? This particular merge on and off the bridge has been here for at least the last 10 years that I know of! This isn't a difficult concept one would think! I know for sure that this is someone that has been off and on the Island more than once. He has a brand new Resident's Beach sticker in his window and just above last year's!

There has been construction everywhere, so once again we open up to two lanes, then three miles later back down to one lane. Since it is 9am all the closures are on the main road heading to Naples, as I am in the midst of this second merge nightmare I am kicking myself in the behind for not taking the 12 mile detour via the other bridge. You would think people would have this merge thing down; they just had to do it 3 miles earlier! Nope, two cars get into an accident just ahead of me, stopping traffic for 20 minutes. You guessed it both from New Jersey!

Ok, I finally get to my first store, in and out in 5 minutes. Second stop was the Naples Board of Realtors, zip in and zip out along with a friendly chat from a Realtor I had meet at the Mid Winter Meetings in Orlando in January. The third store one of those hardware stores I dread visiting. I had to park in the farthest parking spot after driving around in vain for a parking spot. Once in the store, I obtained my items, just in time for them to close down 4 lanes for lunch, once again proving Customer Service is not a priority. I waited in line for 30 minutes (I wasn't going to the other one of this type of store after what happened last week), get to the car only to discover I am being blocked by someone, no way out. You guessed it a NJ plate! Twenty minutes later the lady shows up and smiles sweetly saying "I only had to get one thing, I thought you were an employee parked all the way out here, and I hope you didn't mind". I did, but what's the point? Off to two other stores, which for this time of year you would think that they would have more help. The stores were packed and understaffed!

Rushing to get back to the Island, the traffic now is reduced in the other direction and I am faced with the dreaded merge issue two more times than normal. For some reason, by the time the cars have to merge to get back onto the Island, the zipper merge has finally caught on.

At the top of the bridge I look out and see the South Seas Towers lit up by the sun and I can tell the sunset will be spectacular this evening. Oops, traffic all of a sudden stopped. I am ok with this slowdown, it is not often that I get to sit at the top of the bridge and really look at the Island. The top of the bridge has some of the best views of the entire Island. I keep meaning to walk up it to take pictures. This reminds me I should do so very soon. Five, ten minutes go by, there must be an accident. Now I am upset, I am sitting in park on the highest point on the bridge without my camera! There are dolphins swimming under the bridge, boats dotting the River and the sun is absolutely perfect! Oh the pictures I could have had!

Twenty minutes later, traffic moves and we pass an accident scene at the base of the bridge. This time it is a NJ plate and a Florida plate. The Florida driver is screaming at the NJ driver, who is still in his car. It appears I am not the only one having issues with Jersey drivers today! Is it any wonder that in my little adventure I saw three different cars with the same bumper sticker? "Welcome to Florida - Now Go Home!"

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