It’s not progress if it lowers the quality of life

Image courtesy of Del Stone Jr.

Well, well. Here we sit on Okaloosa Island.

On the right lies our scenic marina-slash-sewer, aka Choctawhatchee Bay. Rumors of the Gulf of Mexico place it to our left, its existence privy only to the gloating apparatchiks who inhabit the faux stucco monads of the Concrete Coast. Mister Gorbachev, will you tear down this wall too?

Stretching before us is the gridlocked nightmare of U.S. Highway 98. As far as the eye can see lies a festering double lane of Nimitz-class pickup trucks, Mommymobiles packed with piña colada-scented melanoma candidates and SUVs that would get themselves sucked to the axles if you took them into the soft island sand.

The seas are rising faster than this line is moving. Progress – lucky us.

Traffic jams are nothing new to the Emerald Coast. Every time a cell phone yapper plows his Suburban into anything smaller than an Abrams tank, traffic backs up. Every time a hurricane roars out of the gulf to revive the anxiety industry, traffic backs up.

And so on that first warm day of spring, when people collectively infer the end of winter and celebrate with a day of looking for a parking spot at the tiny pool of public beaches reserved for the proletariat, traffic backs up.

But of course that first warm day took place back in March. This is June, and it’s the steamy middle of the afternoon, long before the beachgoers pack up their coolers and their new tan lines and begin the arduous crawl for home.

So what gives?

Two things: the new traffic light on Okaloosa Island and the conference center.

The new traffic light amounts to a speed bump of Himalayan proportions. It takes time for people to stop their cars, and it takes time for people to get them going again. All that adds up to time.

Throw into that mix the traffic congestion caused by the conference center – you can’t funnel all those people and vehicles into such a confined space without bringing life to a standstill.

Some of the elite who stand to gain from all this say it’s not the light or the conference center causing the congestion. It’s just regular summer traffic.


These days, traffic backs up even on weekdays. That’s not “regular.”

We were told the gridlock wouldn’t happen. We were told if we complained about it, we’d be grumpy old curmudgeons who oppose progress.

Well, here we sit.

And while a few of the merchant princes will fatten their wallets, and a scattering of kids will get minimum-wage, part time, no benefits jobs, the remaining 98 percent of us will pay for this “progress” with more pollution, more stress and less time to enjoy the fruits of this so-called paradise.

It used to be “progress” meant “better.” But in the cynical lexicon of the ruling class, it means “whatever makes me money, and damn the cost to everyone else.”

It’s not progress if it lowers the quality of life.

Meanwhile, here we sit.

This column was published in the Saturday, June 7, 2003 edition of the Northwest Florida Daily News and is used with permission.

About the author:

Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”

Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.

As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.

Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at .


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