Hissy Fit - August 2017
How Not to Be a Tourist Who Tourists Call Tourists
People. The animals you see and encounter in the Lowcountry are Real. Wild. Animals. Alligators, while fascinating, are beasts of nature. They are predators that eat other animals, including dogs, small deer, and given the opportunity, with or without provocation, they are not opposed to tasting a human now and then.
Here’s why I bring this to your attention: I saw a crowd gathered and knew immediately there was an alligator. Tourists were huddled up like they had just sited Elvis zip lining over Broad Creek. With cameras cocked, they stood approximately 8-10 feet away from what I would consider a dangerous-sized gator—about 8 or 9 feet. (They are ALL dangerous.) Did you know that gators can run as fast as 30 miles per hour, lunge with explosive force and quickly climb fences? Can you?
Have you seen the DO NOT FEED THE ALLIGATORS signs? Those apply to everyone, even you. Here’s what happens: You throw the alligator a potato chip or hot dog because, you know, that is what they eat in the wild. He sees you do it; they have excellent eyesight. He eats it. He likes it. He wants more. Sounds like a typical American so far, right?
Here’s the difference: Alligators will chase you down for more. He’s not like a toddler that can be appeased with a singsong “all gone.” He now looks at you—and every other human— as an easy and tasty food source. Are you prepared for that?
Sadly, feeding the gator will make him aggressive towards humans, which always leads not only to the gator’s demise, but possibly also to some poor human’s, as well. I like to compare gawking at alligators to gawking at rattlesnakes. Oh, wait; no one ever gawks at a rattlesnake. That’s because they will bite you. Duh…so will alligators.
However, snakes will strike and try to get away, and the hospital usually has anti-venom serum at-the-ready. Alligators don’t just bite. They chomp, clamp and take you for a little swim called the death roll. Really, if you must gawk, choose to stare in wonder at tourists’ white, calf-high socks…now those are really terrifying.
Second on my list is driving.
The rules of the road here are the same as everywhere, but a refresher course never hurts:
No right turns from the left lane and no left turns from the right lane. These tend to cause accidents, which ruin vacations. Come on. You know better. If you happen to find that you need to make a turn and can’t get over, just pass your road, turn around and come back to it. Remember, this is the slow-country; the road will wait on you to return.
Don’t back up in your lane. In case you forgot, lanes were built for traffic to flow one way. This keeps chaos at bay. Perhaps traffic only goes one way in lanes where you live, too. We’re kind of anal about this rule. However, I encountered a car backing down Palmetto Bay Road. I wondered if the driver was crazy. Why else would someone back down a busy major road?
Oh, I understand now. They missed the right turn into the restaurant. Well then, by all means, the solution would certainly be to go from 50 mph to zero and back up the 100 feet they just overshot. I mean gosh, they would probably get lost if they drove 30 more feet to legally and safely turn around.
Which brings me to my last complaint: Please don’t randomly stop in the middle of the road. Locals expect you to stop at traffic lights and stop signs; what we don’t expect, is for you to lock up your brakes on 278 when you realize you just passed Wal-mart. And, I know you considered backing up (see above)…but don’t be “that tourist!” Why are you even going to Wal-mart? Don’t you have a Wal-mart back home? Aren’t they all the same? Go to Piggly Wiggly in Coligny Plaza…now there’s local flavor!
Third—the traffic circles:
(Northerners refer to these as roundabouts)
Here’s the deal…STAY IN YOUR LANE! The town has done a good job dummy-proofing the main circle near Sea Pines, where there is no choice but to stay in your lane. However, the rest of the circles—and there are many—allow freewill. Here’s the good news: If you stay in your lane, and realize too late you need to get off, all you have to do is go around the circle again. It’s super easy and pretty quick. You can see your whole darn route in one small sweeping glance.
Should you need to change lanes while on the circle, the key is looking over your shoulder to see if another car is in the lane you need to get into. If there is a car, don’t panic and get over anyway—remember wrecky-poo equals yucky-poo. Just stay in your lane until the other lane is clear—this is not a novel idea.
Lastly, and I truly never thought I would have to say this: Don’t EVER turn left onto a circle. It happened. I was behind someone who actually did it at the Hilton Head Plantation circle. Good job **Pennsylvania plates**. These people have to be related to the people who don’t know peanuts contain peanuts or that Duraflame logs are flammable1. Bless their hearts. Hey Captain Obvious! Don’t make us have to install “No Left Turn” signs at every circle entrance.
With these tips, which I have graciously shared in a loving and respectful manner,
you will be well on your way to enjoying a beautiful Lowcountry/Island vacation. I just have one thing to say
to visitors NOT in the category of “tourists who tourists call tourists”…Y’all come back now, ya hear!
1A reference to a previously written Hissy Fit— Warning…this article contains words.