The women in my family employ the big toe rule

August 8, 2011

Who living in this resort area doesn’t love the month of August? Finally, we see a light at the end of the tourist tunnel. We love the tourists who support a lot of businesses and make our home spot their special destination, but by the end of the summer, as in any resort, we welcome the word, “Ciao.”

The beaches have been packed this season; colorful umbrellas can be seen displayed along the shore as far as the eye can see. The sights and sounds are nostalgic, bringing us back to our childhood memories spent at the shore.

Sure, I go to the beach on occasion, if only to carry on an old family tradition adhered to by all the women in our clan. We never actually go into the water; ever since I can remember growing up on Cape Cod, I can’t recall one female relative going for a swim. For heaven’s sake, my mother would admonish, you don’t know what’s lurking around under there. This was said from under her tightly curled perm that was so stiff you could hide a concealed weapon in there.

And I can attest to this admonishment; often on a hot summer day as I waded into the tepid waters, I experienced that feeling of the lightest touch skimming my bathing suit or leg. Now, I understand, yelling fire in a theater is against the law. Apparently just as dangerous is yelling out “Shark! Run for your lives.” Well, maybe. OK, so it turns out to be a piece of spinach that dislodged from someone’s front tooth.

Hey, I never said I had perfect vision either. In fact, my vision seems to get worse the closer to the water I get.

It must be the salt air or something similar that blurs my rods and cones. I always find myself plopping down on the wrong blanket, reaching into someone else’s cooler and putting sunscreen lotion on someone else’s husband’s back.

I also think it’s pretty insensitive to yell, “Thief, adulterer and parasite.” Those whistles from the lifeguards are so loud. No wonder beachgoers yell, “Stone her.”

So the women in my family simple employ the big toe rule. You just waddle down to the water, stick that big toe in and shake your head like you just confirmed the formula for splitting the atom. That way, no harm, no foul.

Well, don’t think it’s a day at the beach if you just sit in your chair, either. You also have to know that “pitching the umbrella pole into the sand” rule. I’ve seen a lot of innovative devices.

My least favorite is the never-been-to-a-beach technique. Here the person gingerly puts the beach pole into the sand, only to watch it take off like a flying saucer, narrowly missing impaling a couple about a mile down the beach.

Perhaps my favorite, though, was a young couple from Jersey, who arrived in front of me with their belongings and employed some kind of plastic turn key, like a corkscrew, to make a hole in the sand for their umbrella pole. They turned and turned and turned this thing until a large crowd gathered to watch, not their efforts, but the paramedics hauling the couple away after they succumbed to heat exhaustion and dehydration. They never did get to see the result of their labor, but the rest of the beachgoers could look down and get a glimpse of China.

I use the old-fashioned method of rocking the beach umbrella pole back and forth. Yes, this actually works, but only when some nice young man comes along and plants the pole for me, having taken pity on my feeble efforts that look like I’m doing the mashed potato dance from the ‘60s.

So you can understand there are some risks with going to the beach; you’d be pretty safe if you didn’t go into the water and wore a football helmet. It’s one of the reasons I love sitting on the sand and watching my own reality show.

Seriously, the fat lady is about to sing. Hello, August!

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.