Monday, June 19, 2006
The Psychology of the Beachgoer
I admit it -- I don't understand the psychology of the weekend beachgoer. I grew up in the sea-side resort area of Narragansett, RI, spent twenty-five years of my life there, my parents still live there, so I've observed the weekend beachgoer in his natural habitat, but I still don't really understand him.
This Sunday last I went to visit my Da', and as I reached the intersection of Rte. 1 and Rte. 138, there the cars were, right on schedule, backed up as far as the eye could see. Since I have observed the weekend beachgoer for years, and knew his habits, I had timed my journey such that I was safely traveling in the opposite direction. I checked the odometer, and it was a full two miles of bumper to bumper traffic before it started to thin out. It was early in the afternoon yet, and it was just going to get worse.
Now think about these blokes. They probably live up north, in Providence or Cranston or the outlying areas, and it's always a good 15 degrees hotter in the cities. So they come up with the notion to head down south and take the waters and cool off a bit.
Mr. and Mrs. Beachgoer pack up the SUV with their beach chairs and beach towels and beach sunscreen, maybe a beach umbrella, a cooler with their beach lunch, pack up little junior and miss princess and set off on the road. It's an hour's journey down to Narragansett State Beach, so they get a nice and early start. Eight o'clock, let's say.
Well, don't you know they hit Rte. 1 at about 8:45, and it's like slamming in to the back of a Mack truck. The intersection. The lights. There're three major intersections on Rte. 1 before you get to the beaches, each one an opportunity for the flow of traffic to come to a grinding halt. And it does.
What was an hour drive now stretches endlessly before you. As you inch along, braking and accelerating, braking and accelerating, you start to wonder if this was worth it. Little junior's restless and bored, and the heretofore princess is whining, "When are we going to get there, Dad????"
Sometime around 10:30 or 11:00, after spending an extra two hours in a brand-new 10th circle of Hell, you get to the beach and pile all your beach crap into your arms and seek the solace of the sand and surf. But wait! Even though it's 15 degrees cooler here, it's still 80 degrees in the shade. And there is no shade. The beach sand is the temperature of glowing coals, and you do your little sailor's jig in order to avoid searing the soles of your feet.
You look for an empty spot to set up your beach accoutrements, but it looks like the entire state of Rhode Island has decided to sunbathe on this stretch of sand. It's gleaming oiled bodies as far as the eye can see, but not the oiled bodies that grace the cover of men's and women's fitness magazines. These are regular people -- people who tend to avoirdupois, people with eczema, bunions, body hair -- you get the idea.
So you finally find a free spot between an enormous fat woman on one side and a lecherous old goat on the other, and settle in. Junior and Princess run off to build sandcastles, and you keep reminding the old goat to keep his eyes off your wife before you need to re-arrange his face.
You apply your sunscreen and lay down on your towel. The sound of screaming children, raucous seagulls, and oh so not interesting conversation float into your ears. Your attempt at soaking in the sun and basking in nature is not so subtly subverted by all the humanity around you.
As you lay there, broiling in the sun like a rotisserie chicken on the spit, you sense the incipient melanoma growing in the skin of your nose, and picture the visit to the doctor's where the affected tissue will be sliced off.
After three or four hours of like-minded events, you decide to pack up and hit the road early so as to avoid the return traffic. You head to the car, Junior and Princess screaming in protest [cause they want to stay], and head off home. Your seat's a bit sensitive though, because unbeknownst to you at the time, you've acquired a pretty nice sunburn. No frolicking with the missus tonight, buddy -- unless you like pain. Oooo, maybe she'll take pity on you and your burnt skin and demonstrate her talented skills with mouth and hands. Then you laugh out loud 'cause you know that's not happening.
Well, you've been on your way home for five minutes now when you again come to a full halt. Apparently 30,000 other people had the same idea to leave early and you're all stuck in the backup of the intersection of Rte. 1 and Rte. 138. You settle in for a nice long wait and reflect on what a great idea it was to head down to the beach to cool off a bit and enjoy the day.
And as you're backed up in traffic, you notice that the opposite lanes are moving right along. The people inside the cars look refreshed and happy, not beaten down and burned to a crisp. You notice a black Cadillac STS whipping down the road, and inside it is me, the Emetic Sage, on his way to visit his Da' for Father's Day.