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A good day at the beach is all about strategy

August 4, 2019

Like a woman on the cover of a cheap romantic summer novel, I stood on the sand dune and gazed out at the ocean. The wind whipped through my hair so it looked like the makings of a Waldorf salad.

None of this mattered to me, for I was observing the cardinal rule of being at the beach – location, location, location – which involves finding that perfect spot. Isolated and alone, that’s the ticket, so you can hear the New Age music of the waves lapping against the sand. But I’ve learned, the closer you are to the water, the more likely a family the size of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will plunk down in front of you. And the music you hear will be from the soundtrack of the movie “Scream.”

Welcome to the Matrix. Anything goes. With beachgoers lugging chairs, umbrellas, tents, coolers, computers, washing machines and any other thing they find in the garage, the whole scene takes on the ambiance of the last day of a discounted yard sale. So, a little surveillance ahead of time for a spot is advised.

I count myself as a patient person, but when the family beside me includes a guy who pulls out a machete and starts hacking at a watermelon, I’m out of there. Of course, I made the mistake of saying, “Time to go.” I ended up with 10 strangers in my car, all of whom spoke a foreign language I didn’t understand and proceeded to pound me on the back and offer an Uber account on their app for the ride.

It always helps if you wear your glasses when scouting a location at the beach. Sure, I would need a magnification the strength of the Hubble telescope, but it beats the heck out of stumbling back from a swim and mistakenly plopping down next to a giant shark that washed up three days ago. I mean, the flies are the size of a turtle in heat, not to mention the ridiculous conversation you are carrying on because all you see is a blob.

By noon the sun was as high as a meth addict and was sending atomic test site heat. It was time to make my move. I saw a family pack up and leave from under a pile of bodies. Apparently, they left behind a gray-haired older lady, probably a grandmother. Fortunately for me, it turned out to be just a gray metal trash can. I wasn’t too worried about sitting next to it, since people find it too exhausting to lift up the lid, preferring to leave their trash on the ground.

Now the second cardinal rule of the day at the beach is food. Not your own, of course, no one could afford the chuckwagon you would need to impress a bunch of strangers who couldn’t care less about you. Nonetheless, it’s important because it is the law; if you are at the beach, you must eat. No self-respecting beachgoer would be caught without a bag of chips that is at least the size of a feed bag for a whole stable of horses.

So, I always pick a spot closest to the group that has the most coolers. Fortunately, I have very sensitive ears and can hear the rip of a bag or the popping of a plastic top at least as far away as the coast of Italy. I always follow this with a hearty handshake and a ”Howdy, neighbor!”

A day at the beach just takes a little planning, and a cheap romantic summer paperback for trade..

  • 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.