I love the end of the summer. It really brings out the best in people.

I took the boys surfing, and forgot the towels. I went home to get them, and as I made my usual pace down the street, a guy wearing a visor trailing four little kids in back of him, all going the wrong way down the street, yelled out to me, "Slow down!"

Moi? I was going 12 mph.

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As I rolled to a stop at the stop sign, I inched forward to see about oncoming traffic, and scared a young girl in a Cooper. She gave me the finger.

I was walking my dog, and some old lady was yelling at me to get him out of her yard. I feigned deafness, trying to force a face-to-face confrontation, my favorite pastime. She kept squawking but never moved, like Mrs. Dubose from "To Kill a Mockingbird." I think she had a Confederate pistol under her shawl.

A friend blocked my driveway for about 10 minutes, and I saw a guy on a bike writing down his license plate, because the blocked driveway forced him into the street. Did he have anything better to do with his time, I asked? We're at war and all, it seemed to me that he could put his energy into garnering donations for our troops.

Customers (from New York mostly) calling our waitresses "retarded." Is there a worse word in the world than that when used to insult?

My sons getting mouthed at by tourist kids on their local surf beach, when all my sons are trying to do is be friendly.

Everyone being snippy and cranky.

It happens at this time every year, and being a naturally reflective person, I have always tried to figure out why. This is what I think.

August visitors have waited all summer to come here. They have schlepped to work in the heat, day after day, dreaming of cool ocean breezes and the warm waters of the Atlantic. They are finally here, and are sooo happy.

But uh-oh. College kids are back in school, and high school kids have field hockey, soccer and football camps. The teen workforce has been seriously depleted, and owners of small businesses are dependent on family members, foreign workers and the older generation. Even with this help, businesses are understaffed.

Understaffing causes bad service. Bad service causes bad tips. Bad tips beget more bad service, foul moods and quitting. Quitting means cranky business owners, and the general feeling of discontent spreads like a cancer. Pretty soon, everyone is pissed at everyone else. People are moody.

I look at the summer like a big wave. I'm an English teacher, and tend to reduce things to metaphors.

Big waves form way out in the ocean, and just because we're not out there, doesn't mean they're not there, or that they don't make noise.

Think of Memorial Day weekend like the start of a tsunami. It's so big it's hard to focus on it, and looking up at it is intimidating.

You get caught up in the wave, and roll towards shore on a cloud. Pretty sure you're getting tossed head over heels, and you don't know which way is up.

But then the ocean lets you go, and you find your footing. You are able to stand, look around, and smile at the excitement. You walk to shore, feeling the soft waves beat against your ankles, and you think back on the incredible ride you just had.

That's where the summer is now. Sounds are muted, light is diffused and summer is gracefully giving way to the pre-fall season. Everything is changing and you wonder at the jolt of change.

No other season has such a clearly defined end. Fall turns to winter gently with Thanksgiving decorations replaced by Black Friday. Winter and spring in New Jersey are virtually interchangeable - some opt to ski, some travel to the tropics. And spring to summer? Hard to say.

So I bid adieu to my 44th summer on this planet. It has been a great ride, and if I had to do it all again, I would catch the same wave.

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