Earlier this year, I wrote about how skiing was the most overrated activity in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy skiing. But you generally spend more time in the car, putting on clunky gear, and freezing your butt off in the cold waiting for a chairlift than you do actually skiing down the mountain. And even then, the voice of your Jewish mother beckons in the background telling you that you might slip and bang your head against a tree. Or maybe that is just me.
Recently, I have come to the revelation that going to the beach might be the second most overrated activity in the world. Again, I enjoy going to the beach, so I am not suggesting that it is a “bad” activity. But it makes me scratch my head when there is a worldwide pandemic and you see videos of people congregating without masks on at crowded beaches. They must really love sitting at the beach if they are going to put their lives on the line for it.
Growing up, my family would go to the beach in the summer. But my parents always considered themselves to not be “beach people.” Once I got old enough to take myself to the beach, they generally stopped tagging along. The running joke amongst their friends is that they had a house in Cape Cod (right by the beach) but did not enjoy going to the beach. I am starting to find out why.
First and foremost, as with skiing, there is a lot of preparation involved in going to the beach. You don’t just stand up in your jeans, t-shirt and sneakers and go. You need to put on sunscreen, put on your swimmies and your tank-top, and you need to pack a really big, heavy bag. The bag consists of all your towels, games, books, water bottles, ice-packs, snacks, and what have you. But we have not even mentioned the beach chairs. As you lug this impossibly heavy bag over your shoulders, you must carry hot, metallic beach chairs in both arms and manage not to fall all over yourself like a clown.
At this point, you need to drive to the beach. If you are lucky, you frequent a beach that has a parking lot that requires you to spend your last paycheck on a beach sticker. If you are unlucky, you must park somewhere far away so that you can at least get your workout in lugging the impossibly heavy bag and your beach chairs about a mile.
As the blisters form on your toes from this impossible walk that your cheap sandals clearly cannot handle, you might decide to remove them and embrace the one thousand degree sand on your bare feet. This game of hot potato only lasts so long though as you hop along with these items in the sand finding those glorious bits of shade along the way. Eventually, after bickering with whomever you are going to the beach with about where is the “perfect spot” to set up shop, your feet finally get a reprieve from the scorching sun-sand which has now made your blisters seem irrelevant.
Once at the beach, it is time to relax. And what is more relaxing than a bunch of kids running around coughing coronavirus germs all over your face?
In all seriousness, this is the best part of the beach time. If you can zone out the kids burying themselves and throwing clams at one another, you can tune in to a podcast or a book or toss a ball around with a friend. This part is nice.
But how is this really any different than just pulling up a chair and doing the same exact thing in your backyard? I suppose if you do not have a pool, there is something nice about being able to walk into the water. That is assuming, of course, that the water is not too cold, or that it is not shark-infested like it is where I am currently in Cape Cod. Alas, there is nowhere to go to the bathroom, so eventually you decide to face your fear of the sharks, wade into the world’s largest toilet, and do what you need to do while wishing you had eyes on the back of your head to ward off the impending doom of the sharks.
As you dehydrate yourself and starve to death in the hot sun (let’s face it, the snacks you brought are insufficient and there is nowhere to get real food), you realize you are tired from the sun beating down on your face all this time and now it is time to go home. If you are lucky, you have evaded the inevitable sunburn. But now the game you must play is the sand game. This is the game where you try to get all of the sand off your body (and particularly your feet and toes) before you get back in the car. This is not a game that anyone can possibly win.
There is sand in your towels, there is sand stuck to your feet, and even if you take a dip in the water to wash it off, the sand sticks right back to your feet the moment you get out. God forbid you put on your sandals and get wet sand all over your blistered, sunburnt feet. You accept the fact that sand is in every orifice of your body and you trudge along with all of your belongings back to your car.
When you get back home, you feel thankful for just a moment as you embrace the cool air-conditioning. But now you must tiptoe around your house lest you get sand everywhere as you lug the beach chairs back down to the basement. You clean out the dirty bag that – you guessed it – is full of sand, along with cracked, empty water bottles, your sunscreen, and your books, which, yes, are also now full of sand.
Once this chore is done, you feel like you finally have escaped this god forsaken day at the beach. Sadly, you are mistaken once more. As you step into the shower, the water has a pinching feeling on your skin which makes you jump right back out of the shower. You turn to the mirror and see that you are now bright red everywhere. Like a sexually transmitted disease, the beach has now become the gift that keeps on giving.
Over the next week, your skin starts to peel, and you look longingly out the window into your backyard. There are two deck chairs there. There is no sand that is so hot, so difficult to walk on, so intermingled between your toes whenever you set foot upon it. You have realized over this time that there are apps on your phone that can play the sounds of waves crashing on the beach. And you think to yourself that next time, maybe, just maybe, you might decide to just stay home.