This is the story of a day at the beach that was no picnic.
We’ve been living within a mile of the beach for a few years now. I pointed out that we haven’t used our beach umbrella, still new in the package after… four years? We used to do a day trip at least once a year and lay out in the sand. Wouldn’t it be a nice way to spend the holiday?
I woke up at 9:30 and immediately realized that the sun was out. Finally, a break in the “June gloom” that is a regular feature of coastal living. The previous day we’d been socked in with low, heavy clouds until nearly 5 pm.
We had what sounded like a simple, straightforward plan. Let’s walk down, grab a quick breakfast, hang out all day, and then we can grill hotdogs with our backpacking stove.
What will we need?
Now, in my mind all of this came together quickly. We live in a tiny apartment with minimal possessions, right?
That part is true. The trouble comes in when it’s time to access the stuff we only use on special occasions.
The other obvious problem is for me to try to do anything before I’ve had breakfast.
Here are the beach towels and the picnic blanket and the sunblock. Here are the hotdogs and buns and beverages. Now, what else do we need?
The folding chairs
And the backpacking stove
And the propane canister
And some matches - do they still work?
And some condiments
And some kind of skewer for the hotdogs
And a backup battery and connector cables for our phones
All of which exist in separate locations!
Where is the backpacking stove? Why, it’s
In the backpacking tub
In the bottom of the closet
Underneath the sleeping bags because they don’t fit anywhere else
Under the little folding chairs
And, in fact, underneath every single other item in the tub.
Wait, there are two of them, the one for Europe and the one for the US. Which one is which??
Now we have the stuff we need, except that the hallway is full of all the stuff that got pulled out of the gear closet, and we can’t leave until we put it away because we can’t physically open the front door.
Okay, about those skewers. Aren’t they in the utensil drawer?? No?
In the top of the kitchen cabinet with the extra cutlery and serving utensils. No?
In the top of the cabinet above the fridge, with the… baking supplies. Nope. I guess we must have gotten rid of them when we had that yard sale three moves ago.
Guess we’ll use a fork then.
By the time we were packed and ready to leave, we had been banging around for nearly an hour
Still no breakfast and not even any tea
So we went down to the basement with our three bags and retrieved the beach umbrella
And marched down the hill to the cafe
Where the line was very long
And the restroom was, of course, closed.
We had a perfectly fine breakfast and walked another five minutes to the beach
Which was already quite packed
But we found a nice spot and it was fine. What looks like mayhem in photos is really a bunch of people placed ten or twenty feet apart, facing into a bracing wind of 15-20 mph blowing perpendicular off the sea all day long.
What do you do when you go to the beach?
We people-watch and enjoy other people’s music and try to read and talk about random stuff.
There was a little girl digging a hole all day long, and finally she was shoulder-deep and I thought, she’ll run her own company one day, she’s just like me, even on a holiday she doesn’t know what “relax and enjoy yourself” means other than to come up with a really challenging project.
She got her little brother and made him stand in the hole, and she and her baby sister and their mother took turns kicking sand down in the hole to bury him. He wore a patient, somewhat dejected expression; he’d been here before.
Something similar was happening to my hubby
Because his chair legs kept punching down into the sand, forcing him to lean back like he was in a dental chair
And we understood that backpacking chairs are not the same as beach chairs, because those have horizontal rods for legs
So I added them to my checklist
Along with ‘hand soap’ and ‘extra TP’ because the public restrooms had run out by 3 pm.
After a few hours of hanging out on the beach, we decided it was time to grill our hotdogs
Making us the envy of everyone nearby, none of whom had thought of this, because they do not have our elite backpacking skills
And they didn’t notice how long it took us to remember how to snap together the cunning little imported Japanese folding table
Or light the stove in the bracing wind
Despite the folding metal windscreen
And they probably weren’t there for the part where we got an object lesson in heat transfer
And had to set the fork down for a while before roasting the last hotdog because ow
But the hotdogs were exactly what we were hoping for, and we felt really smart.
Finally it was time to head home
Packing up all our gear that was more or less covered in sand and mustard
And it turned out one of us had popped a hole in my nice picnic blanket from the inappropriate chair legs
And I got a pretty bad sunburn because I have never developed basic competency with sunblock.
We have another outing planned
Our first camping trip together in years
So it’s probably time to take some notes and write up a checklist
And maybe pack our gear the day before we’re supposed to leave
And take a photo of my sunburn to remind myself
Winging it is never quite as good as spending a little extra time preparing.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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