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Shrimp 'n Grits

Too much for a good thing
Lee Walton

Once a week, almost without fail, we enjoy a light dinner out at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. For the past several years we've been loyal patrons and have become friends with the owner and chef. He and the staff always welcome us as some of their "regulars" with warm smiles, our favorite "adult beverages" and exchanges about each other's week or small talk about recent events. It's not unusual to see the same crowd on any given night, many with their children or grandchildren.

About three years ago, we could arrive after 7:00 pm and find about half of the dozen or so tables occupied. Lately though, starting noticeably about a year ago, the crowd has steadily increased; after 7:00 there's now a fair crowd waiting on the rare vacant table. To counter this trend, we started arriving earlier and earlier to beat the increasing crowd of "regulars" and new comers. In recent months most tables are now full before 6:00 and by 7:00, half again as many couples or families are waiting and looking at us like "Snoopy" sitting on a limb doing his vulture routine. There's noticeably less time now to exchange pleasantries with the owner and staff as they rush around to keep up with the ever-increasing numbers of new customers.

Talking with other friendly " regulars" always confirms the same loyalty; we each enjoy the casual, friendly atmosphere, food quality, value, consistency and service. We each brag about our secret little place to other friends and encourage them to try it out.

And that's the root of the paradox; we're quickly spoiling the very thing we value deeply by contributing to its success. As "Pogo" once said "We have met the enemy and he is us".

What's now happening to our little "private restaurant" is occurring all over Greater Charleston and spilling over into our neighborhoods, roadways, schools and fragile coastal environment. There are just too many of us now to sustain the quality of life that each of us individually treasures. Privacy and occasional seclusion is now a premium commodity. We're drowning in our own numbers and destroying the very uniqueness we each value so dearly.

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