The day finally arrived when Periwinkle was no longer a vast parking lot. You could actually move on it. But, you know, I had mixed feelings about that.
During the winter months Sanibel thrives on having throngs of visitors here. The full time and snow bird residents have to grin and bear it. We need the business. So we have to put up with crowds, long waiting lines at Sanibel restaurants and busy beaches. We tend to become more tolerant, patient, understanding and amenable.
I'm talking about you folks, not me. As far as I'm concerned, I'm a full fledged member of the original curmudgeon club who wants Sanibel all to myself.
I hate crowds. I hate stop and go traffic. I hate having to wait an hour to get into restaurants. I hate having to wait at the Island Cinema to see a marginal movie. I hate having to wait for anything. I hate, I hate, I hate.
There, I've gotten it off my chest. I can now spend my remaining several weeks as a winter snow bird enjoying the relative calm that comes over Sanibel when everyone heads north.
I've got Sanibel just where I want it. It's mine, all mine. I don't have to share it with six million visitors. I can get a table at any restaurant I want. Or so I thought.
I called Traders last week to make a reservation. The lady at the other end of the phone said, "A table for four? Certainly, sir. The name, please?
I said "Art Stevens" and there was a long pause. She said "one moment, please. I have to check with management." A minute passed. Finally, she got back on. She said: "Oh, Mr. Stevens, I'm so sorry, sir, but I just learned that the Republican national convention will be taking place at Traders this week. Perhaps you can call back another time."
I was incensed, of course, as you would be too if you expect your reservation to be accepted without question.
"Well then, how about a reservation in August when I return for a spell?" I asked. "Oh, Mr. Stevens, I'm looking at our calendar and I see that we have fetish worship induction ceremonies scheduled every evening in August."
"Well, how about November," I said. "I'll be back then and I like to plan ahead."
"Mr. Stevens, I see that the Smuckers people have taken over our restaurant for that time period to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their Cherry Preserves."
"Oh, never mind," I said. I'll call back in three years." I then tried another restaurant, Sweet Melissa's. "Hi, I'd like a reservation for four for this coming Friday evening." "Certainly, sir, the name please?"
"It's Art Stevens." There was another long pause. "Oh, Mr. Stevens, I'm so sorry, but that evening is reserved for veterans of the Civil War."
"What are you talking about?" I stammered. "There's no one alive who fought in the Civil War." She said "We're having a special four-course sance to connect with those brave heroes from the Civil War."
I tried another restaurant, the Twilight Caf. They accepted my reservation until I gave my name. And then: "Oh, Mr. Stevens, we do apologize but the restaurant is undergoing a name change and we'll be putting new signs up. We'll be calling it 'The Dusk Caf' through the early evening, the 'Dawn Caf' in the morning and back to the 'Twilight Caf" later in the day. Please try us in January."
I tried a different tack. I called Jacaranda and told them my name was Harrison Ford. That didn't work either. "Oh, Mr. Stevens, we've already gotten advance word that you'd be calling around. Unfortunately, we'll be closed that evening to honor sea turtle nesting season."
That did it. I got the message. I decided to eat at home and tried shopping at Bailey's. But they wouldn't let me in because they said I was carrying the tsetse fly virus.
I pleaded with them to let me in. I told them that no restaurant would take me and that I was very hungry. I also made it clear that I couldn't have picked up the tsetse fly virus because I hadn't been to Brooklyn in years. It did no good. Unable to get anything to eat in Sanibel I decided to head north early. But the airline wouldn't let me on the plane because they claimed that I was an illegal columnist.