Memorial Day on the Redneck Riviera.
Some folks just don’t know how to act.
There is this widely held opinion that the good-ole boys and girls who come down to the Gulf Goast are an ill-mannered lot, pushy and such. It ain’t so.
I have been a frequent visitor to the Alabama-Florida Gulf Coast for going on 60 years. I have sat on the sand at Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Pensacola Beach, Santa Rosa Island, Destin, Grayton, Seagrove and on down to Panama City Beach. I have been on the beach alone. I have been on the beach when it was crowded. And, generally speaking, the crowd knew when it was crowded how to obey the rules that make beach-going an exercise in civility.
On Memorial Day just past, as the crowds grew, people began acting like they had never been told how you are supposed to act on the beach. And it is for those who do not know that I offer this friendly advice:
If someone has gone to the trouble to get up early and go down and put out their chairs, you should respect their initiative and not get between them and the water.
It is my habit to take Libby the Lab down to the beach for an early morning run. (She is legal. She has a beach dog tag.) While I am down, I set up our chairs about three feet from the water. When I did so this Memorial Day, the water was at high tide. When we came down later, the tide had gone out and there were about six more feet between our chairs and the water. And on that narrow strip of land some folks had squatted — close enough to us that I could have sat in my chair and kicked the back of theirs and probably should have, but being a gentleman, I didn’t.
If you would rather hear recorded music than the sound of the surf, then stick the earphones in your ears; don’t play a radio and drown out the waves. Not everyone shares your “taste” in music.
Don’t mess with Mother Nature. Sargasso weed washed up on our beach. The folks sitting next to a friend of ours raked it up in a pile in front of our friend’s chair. When the friend complained, the seaweed raker shot back that “someone should clean this up.”
Pardon me, but Sargasso weed holds the sand and builds up the beach. Clean it off and the sand will wash away. You want a beach, leave the weed.
A word about dogs. Dogs love the beach. But most beaches restrict the times that dogs can be there. Follow the rules. And clean up after your pet. Dog poop is worse than Sargasso weed. Another word about dogs. If you have a yippie dog, an ankle biter, leave it home. I don’t care for yippie dogs. But Libby likes them. With mustard.
If someone is sitting on the beach reading, leave them alone. They are not reading to kill time until you arrive to engage them in delightful conversation. They are reading because they want to read. And “what’cha reading?” is not a good way to start a delightful conversation. Don’t be insulted if they reply, “Nothing, now that you interrupted me.”
Just because you rent beach chairs and umbrellas doesn’t give you the right to trash the beach. I have noticed that folks who rent beach chairs and such bring down more coolers, toys and radios than folks who carry their own chairs up and back. I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is that they also leave more trash. The folks who rent you the chairs are not hired to pick up after you. Do it yourself.
Children. The beach is made for them. Turn ’em loose. However, just because your little darling is precious to you, the old guy beside you, reading, may not be as taken with your tots as you are. Tell them to stay out of the old guy’s space. Tell them that he likes children, with mustard.
Male attire. Happily, speedos for men never caught on down here. However, as a general rule, men over 60 should keep their shirts on unless they are with other men over 60.
Female attire. If the guy reading the book looks up and goes back to reading, you might want to reconsider what you are wearing. If you have a teenage daughter, ask her. She will have an opinion. If you have a husband, do not ask him. He wants to be on the beach, not in the dog house.
If you are not the only person on the beach, don’t act like you are.
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: email@example.com.