It was mid-October some 18 years ago. Relaxing on the Palmetto Dunes beach, toes in the sand, enjoying late afternoon sunshine, warm – not hot – soothing breezes … and a cocktail. (Oops! Did I just say that out loud?)
Except for the wind and waves, it was peaceful and quiet. I saw barely a soul as high tourist season clamor had since abated.
Taking a swim in the ocean, noticing cooler water temperatures compared with summer, I happened upon a friendly dolphin named Sid.
He asked what I thought of this autumn climate. “It’s the greatest weather in the history of the world!” I declared. “No kidding,” said Sid. “You should move here.” And he swam away.
Three weeks later I awoke a Hilton Head Island local.
Okay, I made up the bit about the dolphin. That’s a story I used to tell my nieces when they were tiny.
But the rest is real, and over those 18 years, I’ve observed that I get out for summertime fun after August more than I do during summer, because here we have two summers: Regular Summer and Locals’ Summer.
It’s as if we locals get a bonus for enduring the indignities brought upon us by tourist invasion forces.
That’s not to say that we locals don’t enjoy Regular Summer as much as the next guy: We do the boating, fishing, paddling, golf, beaches, day drinking and so forth. But when the maddening crowds have gone and the weight of summer heat and humidity has lifted, it just gets better.
Try this first-day-of-school assignment. Write an essay starting with, “I love Locals’ Summer because …”
I’ll get it started. I love Locals’ Summer because road rage potential decreases with fewer wayward minivans driving 15 mph in a 45 and jamming roundabouts.
I can play afternoon golf … wearing the same shirt on #18 green as on #1 tee. I can read a book … or handwrite an article … out on the beach or patio, without sweat dripping onto the pages.
I can get a seat at the Tiki Hut bar. I can run on the beach without dodging shrieking little kids and without risk of getting biffed in the head by an errantly thrown football.
Oyster roast season! Some years, Thanksgiving dinner is outdoors. Heck, I recall a Thanksgiving when I ran on the beach, swam in the ocean and napped in the sand before the feast.
Too bad this was before smartphones and Facebook so I couldn’t effectively gloat to my friends up north. That would’ve been sweet!
Now you try. And remember fellow locals, it’s September, but summer is just beginning.
Frank Dunne Jr. is a long-time island local and freelance writer.