John Bartus

On June 1, the roadblock ended and visitors were welcomed back into the Keys. In the time between then and now, hotels and resorts and vacation rentals began welcoming guests, restaurants expanded capacity, and bars were finally allowed to reopen. It’s just like it was in the old days…

Except it’s not. There’s still a pandemic raging around the world, and Florida still averages around 1,000 new Covid-19 cases a day. While perhaps the most dire predictions didn’t come true, Covid-19 is still a serious disease with complications and a mortality rate that can’t be ignored. So please accept our welcome of our visitors back to the islands, with some suggestions that will make us love you so much more!

1. Be nice. ‘Nuff said.

2. Yes, we’re all aware that the governor’s latest Executive Order encourages and recommends following CDC guidelines like wearing masks and social distancing. And we’re aware that masks aren’t required by law. Local businesses, however, can set their own policy on wearing masks. If you are in one of these businesses, please be nice and put one on. Trust me, no one wants to hear anyone rant and rave about freedoms being taken away and all that other conspiracy theory BS. Besides, just look at it this way: if you wear the mask, you’ll become measurably more anonymous to all the security cameras monitoring your every move. Just saying.

3.  The left lane is for faster traffic; the right lane is for slower traffic. Just like back home. And that lever that comes out of the steering column controls the directional signals on your automobile. Appropriate use of these “blinkers” can make everyone feel so much better about things in general. Please trust me on this. Also: bridges with humps are not there for you to stop and take photos and selfies. Other traffic will assume that the bridge lanes are for moving traffic, and the worst possible selfie is the one that shows the semi in the background just before it crashes into your stopped vehicle on a bridge.

4. We hope you get the occasion to visit one of our awesome beaches or parks! As you enjoy the visit, please keep in mind that other groups down the beach may not want to hear your latest favorite hip-hop track at 128 dB. The same goes for the same ice cream truck music loop that keeps repeating and repeating, all the while inspiring suicidal tendencies in everyone caught within a 500-foot radius. Just be nice and considerate of your neighbors on the beach.

5. If you’re enjoying a cookout at one of the beach pavilions, don’t just strew and discard bones and tendons like ancient uncouth cave dwellers. Pavilions have trash cans right nearby, and you can help keep the beach clean and free from terrifying creatures like fire ants and grizzly bears.

6. If you’re walking your pet, please carry one of those bags for poop scooping. Once you have your precious Fido’s droppings secured in the bag, remember that the job is only halfway done. That bag must make it to a trash receptacle so it may complete its final journey. If there are a trash bin and a recycle bin side by side, don’t be confused. While Fido may have “recycled” his dog food into what’s in the bag, the bag goes in the trash — not placed on the ground between bins as one recent confused beach visitor actually did.

7. Be super nice to the people who serve you in restaurants and bars. They spent months without an income, and are really glad our visitors have returned. The tips they earn help them put their way through this thing called life. A 20% gratuity will go a long way in helping them recover from the financial hit most of us took, and it will certainly help with your good karma.

Welcome — we really are glad you’re back! We hope you enjoy yourself so much that you’ll come back again and again! Enjoy the islands, and I’ll see you around wherever music is played.

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