It sort of sneaks up on you, like sinus trouble.

You honk your horn at the big Cadillac with the New Jersey plates, and the horn is hoarse, and you wonder why.Playing the local mini-golf course takes longer than the GTE Suncoast Seniors Golf Classic, and you think, is there some convention in town?

You're in a long line at a traffic light on U.S. 19. You've been there for quite a while, you realize. In fact, since Tuesday. And all of a sudden, you start to wonder what's wrong, and all of a sudden you're noticing a lot of Alamo Rent-a-Car bumper stickers, and all of a sudden, you realize.

Ohhhhh yeah. It's the height of the season.

You would think that we Florida residents would anticipate the tourist season the way we prepare for hurricanes.

Something happens when you make the switch from one of them to one of us. You learn in your first year in Florida to benignly disregard the thousands of tourists that invade Florida annually. This in turn encourages you to ignore tourist season until it's in your face, such as when you see the police officer directing traffic in front of a Bob Evans restaurant.

Fact is, we're never ready, for instance, for tourists on the beach who eat corn chips that attract sea gulls that poop on us. Or driving the full length of Gulf-to-Bay in second gear. And nothing can prepare us for walking into a mall on a rainy day during tourist season.

Of course, residents shouldn't be caught dead in a shopping mall on a rainy day during tourist season. And that's the point. We need to prepare better for this yearly onslaught. We need an official Tourist Season Survival Guide, something like all those chemical explosion/nuclear war/hurricane disaster plans kept in a deep vault somewhere.

Some modest survival suggestions:

Evacuate. I've heard Newark is nice this time of year.

If evacuation is impossible, discourage house guests. Tell them that they're welcome to stay at your place, just watch the snakes near the porch, and don't worry, those furry spiders the size of a fist are harmless, it's the brown, saucer-sized ones that can kill you. (I guarantee this works on Michigan people).

Grocery shop at 2 a.m.

Avoid the beach, except on rainy days, or at 2 a.m.

Avoid all tourist attractions, except on rainy days, or at 2 a.m.

Go to shopping malls only on beautiful days. Avoid outlet malls at all costs.

Want to see a movie? Wait till the video comes out.

Want to go to a restaurant? Buy one.