It was a bright, sunny Thursday. The birds were chirping, the sky was cloudless and I was happily typing away at my desk. It was shaping up to be a great day until I heard the words, "You need to be in Destin at 3 this afternoon." Cue storm clouds and horror film music.
When tourists hear the word "Destin," they think of the sugary white beaches, fresh seafood and boating. When I hear the word "Destin," my chest gets tight, my breathing gets shallow and I have to take an antacid.
Ah, Destin. Your beaches are beautiful and your food is tasty but your traffic will be the thing that will always haunt my nightmares.
Seriously, I once had a nightmare where King Kong was trying to break into my house and kill me, but that doesn't compare to the fear I feel when I hear I have to drive to Destin during tourist season.
I gave myself an hour and 45 minutes to get to City Hall from Fort Walton Beach. As I approached the 30 minute mark in traffic on Eglin Parkway I assumed the worst had happened ahead of me. Horrible accident, carnage all over the road, overturned semi carrying gasoline. I crossed Brooks Bridge to see absolutely nothing. The road was clear after the light. There was no accident, the road had not been washed out but a sudden flash flood, nothing. I had a nice little drive for the next five or so minutes until I happened upon another traffic jam on Okaloosa Island. I expected this back-up. The HarborWalk parking system has been wreaking havoc on traffic since the day it began. What I did not expect to see after my slow-crawl to the Marler Bridge was tourists stopping their cars on the bridge to get out and take pictures.
Look, I know Crab Island looks like a blast and a half, but you can't get there with your car. And I don't know what state you came from, but I'm about 99.9 percent sure that stopping in the middle of a road and getting out of your car is not acceptable anywhere.
Before I get too heated, let me be clear that I'm not hating on all you tourists, OK? You guys are a big part of our economy and we appreciate you, but at the very least can you please go the speed limit?
I understand our beaches are beautiful and there's a lot to see around here, but if you want to rubberneck, then please pull off the road and walk. Only locals will understand that feeling of dread you get when you see someone with an out-of-state plate in front of you on 98.
Speaking of locals, some of you are just as bad as the tourists. Whenever I see someone with Florida tags going 10-under the speed limit in the right lane, I do a mental face-palm. Also, please remember that spotting a cop or emergency vehicle in the opposite lanes does not mean you slow down or stop. Especially if there is a median in the middle of the road. One more thing, I know the construction zones and lane changes are confusing, but I'm confident that the majority of you have played enough "Frogger" to know how to navigate those zones without having to go 5 mph.
I got to my meeting with two minutes to spare. In my prayers that night, I had a heart-to-heart with God. "Lord, when I prayed for patience, this is not what I meant." I have a feeling I gave him a good chuckle.
Sheri Kotzum is a reporter for The Destin Log. She can be reached at email@example.com or 315-4353.