Sunset at Belmar, NJ
I always bring one or two books to the beach even though I rarely read more than one or two pages. It’s crazy, I know. For someone who enjoys reading, the beach is the perfect place to relax and get into a book. Except it’s not. Why? Because it’s also one of the more interesting people watching places you’ll ever find and I find my attention to human interaction is much more entertaining than the pages in front of me.
As an example, we got to the beach last Tuesday at roughly 10:00. It’s a good time; not many people there yet and you have the opportunity to pick your spot. So I sit and enjoy the ocean for a bit, take a walk down to check out the water, realize it’s still only the end of June and head back to my chair. Fifty-eight degree temps just don’t interest me anymore. So I pull out a book and begin to read, just as the show begins.
Now, before you get the wrong impression, this isn’t a post about bathing suits. That would take too much time and my eyes still haven’t recovered from the abuse they took that particular day. No, this is more about people. In no particular order, this is what kept me entertained most of the day…
I enjoy watching families, especially the Mom who walks around like she’s on a mission to find the perfect spot, holding her sunglasses and towel while her children and husband trudge along twenty yards behind, lugging half the contents of their home, only to realize there’s not enough room to spread out and create their own beach zip code. I especially like when she seems to decide on a spot and just as everyone puts everything down and drops to the sand exhausted, she decides on another location. Yeah, those little interactions and comments are fun to watch and hear.
Then there was the guy who sat behind and off to the side of us with his girlfriend who forgot where he was and thought it was his day to conduct a seminar on healthy living, diet and exercise. He thought he had an audience of one, his significant other, but didn’t realize that he forgot to tone down the volume on his voice and that anyone within a twenty yard radius had to listen to him preach to the young lady he was with about how she should be going to the gym at least six days a week, the system cleansing formula he uses and what she should and should not be eating. This went on, no lie, for almost a half hour, non stop. The young lady didn’t say a word or ask a question. She just silently got up after he took a pause and went into the water. I was tempted to follow her because I was afraid she would decide that the option of continuing to swim out as far as she could was better than going to back to more of that monotone, nails on a chalkboard torture.
In front of us was a group of six teens, four girls and two boys. Three of the girls sat together and one of the boys sat next to them. The other boy interacted with those four and the last girl but this last girl sat with her back to the other three girls, and the water. She sat with her legs pulled up to her chest and a sketch book on her lap. She never moved from that position until she left three hours later without saying goodbye to the other four teens. She spoke to one of the boys, who I guessed was her boyfriend, but to no one else, even though all of their towels touched.
To my right was a group of four college age girls who brought their hula hoops with them. Between laying on a blanket and swimming, they would practice their hoop routines. My guess is they are part of some competition team based on some of their moves but you don’t usually do something like that with so many people around you, especially when the stray hoop lands on someone’s head, which it did, and was bound to happen. On the other hand, if you’re looking for attention…
Of course, there is always the group who decides to plop down three feet in front of you, opening their chairs and umbrellas and blocking your view of the ocean, even though there are plenty of other spaces. These people are always in the water and almost never in their chairs but remain clueless about beach etiquette.
And yes, there is such a thing as beach etiquette.
There are other things I enjoy. I love watching the gulls tear into bags of chips and food left open and unattended and the bewildered look on the faces of the owners when they arrive back to find lunch has already been served. Or watching people fight with umbrellas that get turned inside out on windy days or even those who think they can purchase four, soft serve ice cream cones on a sunny, 90 degree day and walk a hundred yards back to their chairs without it turning into a puddle of mess.
Maybe one day I’ll bring a book and actually get though a paragraph or two while sitting on the beach. Maybe. But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.
The stories around me always seem to be much more interesting.