Don't let anybody tell you we didn't see this coming.
That would be the day Hilton Head Island filled slap up.
It sure seems full now. And it's only April. Call it July in April. Call it the day they all warned us about — all those letter writers, blue hairs, burn-the-bridgers, and the I've-got-mine-so-go-away islanders.
Today, people are reporting gridlock on Pope Avenue. A man from Dove Street wrote a letter to the editor saying he was a prisoner in his own home on the south end of Hilton Head. Is it long before we send in rescue helicopters like New Orleans in a hurricane?
Getting to this point has been a long, slow trip without enough stops at the rest area.
We've put off the inevitable with a lot of coping mechanisms to live with the growing crowds.
I liked what the late John Gettys Smith wrote about the beach. He was an early public relations guru for Sea Pines, and I was just reading his words in a new book by his wife and daughter, "Paradise: Memories of Hilton Head in the Early Years" by Nelle and Ora Elliott Smith.
John wrote about parties on the beach in the old days in a 1995 issue of Island Scene, reproduced in the book:
"The tourists who pack the parking lot at the Beach Club pour out onto that beach and, perhaps because they are accustomed to crowded, noisy cities up North, settle down elbow to elbow on whatever, and noisily re-create as best they can those conditions on a Carolina sea island. Fortunately for us, they almost never spread out beyond where the parking lot path funnels them."
Well, I think they're finally spreading out.
We used to be able to lie in the middle of U.S. 278 and take a nap if we wanted to after Labor Day. Restaurants closed for whole months in the offseason, and the European chefs played soccer on the beach in Speedos.
But there were signs all along that we were slipping down the water slide to hell.
A "Save Our Trees" march here, a Resident Homeowners Coalition moratorium referendum there, and thousands of task forces, white papers, editorials and letters to the editor.
The only time Connie Angeletti, God rest her soul, ever seemed to look up from clanging out letters of dire warnings on her typewriter was to go wag a finger at Town Council meetings.
But no one rattled the cages like the late Frank Chapman.
He was elected mayor in 1993, and the things he said could fill up Hilton Head's first Believe It Or Not museum.
Yes, Hilton Head Island elected a mayor who called tourism "a waste of time," who said our restaurants were too expensive "and the food's bad," who called Disneyland and Las Vegas his idea of hell, and who said he was "turning the welcome mat over" at the foot of the bridge.
To say that USA Today and The New York Times loved his copy is an understatement.
When Chapman died in 2008, I wrote that when island children needed more ball fields and he told parents to let them learn to sail, I could have wrung his neck. When he questioned the integrity of volunteers serving on a parks commission, chairman Charles Perry darn near did wring his neck.
Chapman ran for office saying he wanted to stop growth.
"We can't turn ourselves into an urban ghetto," he said. "We must set an example of quality living."
Chapman said, "I support long-range views as opposed to short-term commercial adventurism."
He was a man who lived aboard a boat for a long time and died after repairing to Maine. But before he did, he warned that the island that couldn't decide if it wanted to grow up to be Henry David Thoreau or P.T. Barnum would some day fill its one giant cul-de-sac.
He had a sign by his desk that said, "It's the carrying capacity, chum."
And now more than ever we must ask, what is our carrying capacity? We must add lanes to get people in and out of here to work and play, but in the end the carrying capacity is a finite number.
Are we there yet?
David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale