Today is March 4th and as I write this article I can’t believe it’s only a month till April! It seems as if it were only yesterday that I was writing about our Snowbirds arriving and to predict what a busy season it was going to be. Well, that turned out to be the understatement of the decade. This season was ballistic! Now that’s not bad by any means depending who you talk to. If there were merchants that complained about this season in Naples, I sure didn’t hear about them. I did hear complaints about traffic, parking, too many people, rudeness from visitors, not being able to dine in your favorite restaurants etc, etc. But I’m okay with all of that, and maybe it’s the fact that I have finally figured out the simple solution and it’s been there every year for the past 42 years and I never saw it.
Starting in November of 2014 and something I will do each year in future Novembers, I made myself a solemn pledge to chillax for the upcoming season no matter how busy or frustrating it might be. I know there’s no such word as chillax, but the definition I hear for it is very apt and it supposedly means chill out and relax and I did just that. I made sure that I left enough time and added a few minutes to spare to get to my destinations around Naples. I made reservations in my favorite restaurants way in advance and did my grocery shopping either first thing in the morning or if I could around mid-afternoon. I didn’t let it bother me that just because someone puts their turn signal on and lets you know beforehand that no matter what, they are going to cut you off because that’s the direction they are going to take whether you let them or not. I try my hardest to take an extra deep breath when trying as I do almost everyday to head North from City Hall on Eighth Avenue South and when I get near the traffic signal on Eighth and Fifth be held up for at least two signal changes and sometimes more because of some clueless individual that ends up stuck in the middle of the intersection blocking traffic in all directions and has that dazed look on their face trying to figure out why people are honking, swearing and glaring at them. There are many more on this list but to sum it up I had a darn good season and just wonder why it took me so long to figure this simple solution out.
In the late 90’s, Naples got its first roundabout on Seventh Avenue North. Although famous in Europe nobody was quite sure how to drive on one and City Council took a lot of abuse at first but then like many other things that happen in Naples they became a way of life and we added more of them. They do keep traffic moving albeit questionable during tourist season. However with that being said here are a few roundabout lessons for those who still can’t figure them out. There is a yield sign on the pavement in big white letters as one approaches a roundabout. This does not mean the first one in the circle wins if another vehicle is approaching, nor does it mean come to a complete stop when you see the yield sign. Once in the roundabout do your best to keep moving and try not to see just how slow you can go because you are so excited to be in it. If you can’t figure out once you’re in it how to get out of the roundabout, just drive around the circle a few times and you will no doubt see that there are choices that you have to exit. Once you get used to maneuvering roundabouts and have built your confidence level to a new high it’s probably not a good idea to be overconfident and try to become a Professional Roundabout NASCAR driver. Although it might be found in the Guiness Book of World Records for the fastest elapsed time getting through a roundabout, Naples is definitely not the place to try for that new world record.
On the serious side, Life in Naples is good. For those of you who have spent this winter season with us or have just spent a short time with us and are leaving Naples for the Spring and Summer months I offer you a sincere thank you. I never get tired of hearing from our winter residents and tourists how beautiful Naples is. I appreciate all of you dining in our cutting-edge restaurants, enjoying our golf courses, beaches, public parks, theatre, retail stores, health facilities and so much more. Although I usually write my articles with a touch of humor I am serious about what I do and those constituents that I continue to serve and have served off and on as an elected official since 1984. I enjoy responding to phone calls, e-mails, complaints and letters. Yes, people still write an occasional letter. I enjoy the daily challenges that are presented to me as a representative of our City, and I especially enjoy the fact that six of my eight grandchildren live in Naples. I smile when I hear someone talk about our forefathers of Naples and what a vision they had when shaping Naples and I think to myself, “Wow, I was and still am a part of that process.”
Of course in 1984 when I was a rookie Council Member there were two things that became embedded in my mind that year and have remained with me ever since. The first was about prior City Council’s actions and thoughts of what they did NOT want the City of Naples to look like. Billboards were at the top of that list, and they had quoted the East Coast many times and made reference to the multitudes of them located on US1 and A1A. The second was told to me by a wise old City Manager. The conversation was about controlling growth and he said to me, “You can never control growth, but you can manage it.”
Enjoy your days away from Naples, and I look forward to your return.