My neighbors were out in the hallway, rustling bags and debating which shoes to wear down on the sand. They had a family member on the phone, I’m guessing an auntie, probably on video because I could hear her clear as a bell from inside my living room. This family has a two-year-old daughter so they were all pretty lit up.
The beach is open.
Our apartment is not quite a mile from the beach, more specifically from the pier, tourism center of a tourist area. You could plausibly put on roller blades on the front steps of our building and coast directly downhill to an ice cream shop.
Normally this would sound like a brag, which is why I’ve never mentioned it before. Right now, it feels more like the opening montage of a horror movie.
I’ve been hearing all about it on Nextdoor for weeks. A lot of our more vocal neighbors live closer to the action than we do. Some are directly on the beach. Others face onto alleys or live near shops where there is always a lot of activity. From all accounts, this is already shaping up to be a bit more chaotic than a normal summer.
Just today, a neighbor complained that a group of 15 teenagers and young adults were lighting off fireworks in their personal front yard. A police officer on the scene escorted them off toward the beach, and that was all. No masks, no distancing, no citations, not much of anything.
Another neighbor complained last week that various people are routinely copulating outdoors, in the open, in the parking lot next to their house.
Everyone is complaining that there is trash everywhere.
For the last 3-4 weeks, there have been steady reports of crowds of thousands of people on the beaches, in the parks, and all along the walkways. Someone talked to a security guard who said he had been hired by the city, and they were there to “report.” Not to ask people to leave an area that had supposedly been closed by order of the governor. Not to give out tickets. Not to do what they were apparently doing in... I think it was Brazil? Flying along the beach in a helicopter, spraying sand all over everyone until they packed up their picnic blankets.
We live at the beach, but we don’t really *go* to the beach, in the same way that Portlanders don’t usually go downtown during Rose Festival and New Yorkers don’t usually go to Times Square. My hubby lives for the sunsets and the occasional sea view. I like the palm trees and the wild parrots. But we’re not surfers or kayakers or whatever.
Too crowded, too loud, too messy.
Beach people are laid back. This is fun until something goes wrong. We’re probably a little too tightly wound, too serious, too Type A to truly fit in down there on the sand.
This happened somewhere else, but we went on a trip to Hawaii and I sprained my ankle after I fell out of a sea kayak for the fourth time. (Humblebrag) The kayak rental guy was like “Oh.” Fifteen minutes later he wandered over and handed me an ace bandage, then wandered off again.
I’ve found that episode instructive as I learn to live among the wild and carefree beach folk of the world.
I come from a rainy place and my hubby comes from a snowy place. I think it makes people a little different in their attitudes toward risk.
The reason we have a few different types of wild parrots here is that they can live off fruit year-round. A person probably could, too. This is a place where a human can go around permanently barefoot and conduct an otherwise ordinary middle-class lifestyle. My neighbors don’t like wearing socks, much less masks.
Someone on our Nextdoor list put up a poll asking which was more rude, to go out without a mask or to lecture someone else for not wearing a mask. It was pretty evenly split, but “lecture” was considered at least slightly more rude.
I don’t think rudeness really factors into it.
We’re not alone - this attitude seems to be cropping up all around the world. It’s an open secret that people have not been complying with social distancing measures, and by “people” I mean “most people.” We’ve reached the point where businesses are rebelling and defiantly reopening, calling the bluff of their municipalities.
People want haircuts, man!
I feel helpless and resigned about this situation. It seems transparently obvious to me that the majority of people aren’t ready to go out and pretend that nothing is wrong. “Opening” is not going to magically snap the economy back into place, marvelous as that would be.
Personally, I am far, far less likely to leave our apartment now than I was even a week ago. I already know that the majority of beach visitors have been traveling here from elsewhere, probably from 25 miles in every direction. Possibly much more. They’re self-selected as the most impatient, least anxious percentile of the population. I’m still not quite 80% back from the brink of death and I feel no internal drive to increase my exposure risk.
I can’t see it. I can’t imagine faking a casual, relaxed attitude even for ten minutes, strolling along the beach and pretending it’s 2015.
I can’t imagine going to a restaurant and sitting for 90 minutes, trying to figure out which is more dystopian - a waiter *with* a surgical mask or a waiter with *no* mask. Who could eat a meal and manage to avoid every single conversational pitfall, from the pandemic to the economy to “how are your friends and family, I hope they are doing well”?
On the other hand, I’m getting pretty good at sitting around our little living room and ignoring it all for up to an hour at a time.
I might go to the beach again - one day. I might go on vacation again - one day. Probably not until like 2025. Even though I live here, I can’t see what all the fuss is about.
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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