Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

A Good Day on the Beach

Beach_Gear_Hat_Bag_Towel_VacationPeople on beaches do interesting things. They cackle, fall asleep without sunscreen and float on an armada of objects that resemble anything from lids on coolers to sleek versions of dugout canoes.

Reading is a big beach occupation. Genres range from crossword puzzles to popular novels to serious biographies, with an array of magazines and newspapers thrown in.

Wading into the water is one of the main points of being at the beach. At beaches that invite snorkelers, it is fascinating to watch the techniques of entry. Veteran snorkelers or people who at least know what they’re doing wade far enough into the water so they can put on their fins and start swimming. Newbies or just plain stubborn people variously and laboriously creep into the water wearing their fins, some sideways, others backwards. Falling is an ever-present possibility.

Beach decorum varies widely. There are those who set up without major fuss, enjoy the sun, cool off in the water and keep to themselves. Then there are groups that think the beach is a frat house, where boisterous behavior is the expected norm. Or there is the eccentric, like the guy who sets up his own hammock, then swings while wildly whistling an annoying tune.

Families with children off the best and worst of beach-goers. The children can be adorable splashing in water. They also can be obstreperous little buggars who shout without abandon. Parents can be nurturing souls who instantly turn into powder kegs of anger when a child misbehaves.

Beaches have a similar appeal as coffee shops. Many people go to the same beach every day to strike up conversations, often on the same topics, with the same people. If it is a beach on the Hawaiian Islands, the conversations may have to skip an entire year before resuming, pretty much where they left off.

A Day on the BeachWhereas beaches are thought of as places to retreat and relax, many find it impossible to escape the buzz in their beach shorts, which involves a call from the home office or one of the kids off to college. Even worse is the discovery that the phone in your pocket isn’t buzzing because the battery went dead or you forgot to take it out of your pocket when you went for a dip.

Some earnest people turn statisticians when analyzing the degree of sunburn beach dwellers accumulate. The betting crowd at the beach takes odds on how long for people to burn, especially those by the looks of their pale skin haven’t been outdoors in a decade or longer.

Beach attire is another popular visual attraction. Invariably somebody will show up with long pants and a long sleeve shirt, despite temperatures in the 80s or 90s. On the other end of the spectrum are those with barely perceptible bikinis or a guy in a speedo. And, of course, there are young dudes with swim trunks seemingly being held up by their kneecaps, instead of their butts.

Not everyone agrees on what a “good day at the beach” means. For some, it is a time to soak in the sun’s warming and healing rays. For others, it is to commune with others. For still others, it is a chance to paddle on a board out where tiger sharks may be swimming and biting.

For landlubbers like me, the thought of getting into a fist fight with a shark is uncomfortably unpleasant. I would much rather tangle with a good book any day. That, for me, is life on the beach.




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