I love the beach – everything about it. The sun, the water and, yes, even the sand. After living in Mobile and being close to the Gulf for years, my husband and I had to have a place on the beach. We bought a condo in Gulf Shores last year and I go every chance I get. I would live there if I could.
A couple of weeks ago, I dragged (forcibly – yeah right), my sister with me to the beach on the pretense of having to get started re-doing the interior of the condo. I needed to get things painted, updated etc. I thought we would get a lot done in choosing new furniture and colors but the lure of the ocean was simply too much for us. The siren call of sun and surf won over standing in Lowes looking at paint chips. I think renovating will have to wait until it gets too cold to sit outside.
The first day we got up and sat on the balcony, watching the early morning people walking and looking for shells. I noticed a few idiots in the water as the bait fish were flying and jumping. Has no one ever read or listened to people about sharks? I learned early on that sharks prefer to feed when the bait fish are running – which is usually early in the morning or about sunset. Also, sharks are more prone to attack LONE swimmers (cue Jaws music and the lone girl swimming at night). It is best to swim in groups. I won’t go in the water until about mid-morning after the fish have quit jumping and the seabirds aren’t diving any more for fish. That is definitely a clue that the bait fish have left the area. Although one article I read said if you don’t want to run the risk of being attacked then stay out of the water, I still swim but try to avoid things which make you a target – shiny jewelry, brightly colored swimsuits (mine is basic black or dark blue – the colors also helps hide defects), inflatables (sharks love them for some reason) and going out where the sand bar drops off (a favorite feeding area). Every person I saw that morning was in neon green or yellow suits, splashing and swimming with floats and going way too far out in the water. Yep, feeding time.
At around ten, I pulled on the one-piece, packed a small cooler with drinks and a bottle of ammonia/alcohol solution (more on that later), grabbed my towel, chair and umbrella and then trudged through the sand to a spot close to the water. My sister did the same. She knows I travel light and won’t be burdened with bags of stuff. I simply cannot get over the people who empty their condos, bringing everything with them to the shore including the kitchen sink. Less is more. I always feel sorry for those stupid young parents who pack their children’s toys, drinks, food, tents, strollers, beds, etc., and finally get to the beach, exhausted and ill, only to find the kids would much prefer the pool. They will learn. The ocean is scary and the sand gets itchy – the kids are usually crying in ten minutes and the parents are packing. A word of advice: travel light, it makes the return trip a lot easier.
After positioning my chair and umbrella, I usually sit and people-watch until I get too hot to stand it. Ah, people at the beach…they seem to throw convention out the window and dress in ways that would make designers shudder and vow never to create another swimsuit. I am older – face it, and I understand that this body has NO BUSINESS in a bikini. I wish someone would tell that to other women my age. One woman, who was about my height, age and overweight had on a string bikini. Jean’s words came floating into my head: “The real horror is, she actually got up that morning and put that on.” My sister kept telling me to shut up when I pondered men in Speedos. I mean, really? Does no one own a mirror? Then there are the people who are completely covered, head to toe, in an effort to avoid the sun’s damaging rays. Long sleeve shirts, hats, and pants. Okay, so why come to the beach to die of heatstroke? There should be a happy medium in dressing appropriately for the beach – somewhere between too little and too much. I kept muttering that most of these women should know that they aren’t twenty any more and the men definitely cannot be in Chippendales. Good thing I had Ray Bans.
When it got too hot to sit any more, I got up and went down for a dip. I made sure to get near a large group of people and floated with the waves. Too much splashing and kicking aren’t good either. What I don’t understand is why people feel the need to force their kids out into the water. One lady was holding a toddler who was screaming, kicking and clawing to get out of that water. Far be it from me to tell the woman that the kid obviously didn’t like the salt in his eyes or the wild rolling of the ocean. I think she learned that when her eardrums shattered. Best to get out of the water, blood attracts sharks. The woman tenaciously held on until she couldn’t take it any more. Thank God!!
Cooled off, with my ears ringing, I went back to my chair. I had noticed a few jelly fish in the water and, well, I got stung on the leg. Yes, it hurts, but that is the risk you take. I brought out the bottle of ammonia/alcohol solution, poured some on the sting then picked up a shell to scrape the stingers out. A young girl just up the beach came running out of the water, screaming she had been stung by a jellyfish – such histrionics! I watched her being rescued by her boyfriend who graciously offered to urinate on her leg. I shook my head, that doesn’t work. I grabbed the ammonia/alcohol solution and went to her aid. I think her boyfriend was disappointed because he kept arguing with me. I think he was wondering how many times do you get the chance to pee on your girlfriend, at least it seemed like that. The younger generation, I swear.
After about four hours of sitting there, thinking up stories for all the people who strolled by or who were sitting near me, I was done. To quote Jean again, “stick a fork in me.” I got up and, according to proper beach etiquette, shook out my towel down-wind of other sunbathers, packed up my meager belongings and headed back to the condos. Passing the pool, I noticed the young parents, sitting in the shade, exhausted, with their entire condo piled around them. I smiled, it gets better as you get older – the only real benefit I could attribute to aging and being at the beach is I don't have to deal with a cranky child.
After a shower and lunch, we went to Lowes only I couldn’t decide on colors. Time enough for that later when the water wasn’t calling. Back as the beach, holding a beer in my hand, leaned back in a chair and watching the sunset, I decided life couldn’t get any better than this, even with all the people around. Oh, wait, was that a fin in the water? Has any one told those late-in-the-day swimmers? Not me, I was too comfortable…
Do you go to the beach? Tell me your favorite places to go whether it's the beach, the mountains or the big cities.