June 22, 2017

Island Living: Unenforceable Beach Crimes
and the Guilty Parties Who Commit Them 


So the other day I was re-reading Irene’s iconic and completely informative 2016 article on Beach Manners, and it got me to thinking - (bad habit, I know.)

There are obviously plenty of “Rules of the Beach” that are both good manners and are enforceable by law, but what about those other circumstances that aren’t necessarily illegal, but can nevertheless drive you mad? I couldn’t help but mull over those situations as well, and wonder if there could be a secondary set of guidelines that essentially say: “Yes, you technically can do these things… But you’re going to annoy a heck of a lot of people if you do.”

And the more I considered this set of “Unenforceable Rules of the Beach,” the more I realized that I, personally, was guilty of a bunch of offenses. Yes, some of these crimes were committed in my much, much younger years, but I am sorry to report that others occurred as recently as last month.

So in the interest of honesty, and of not being an unbearable finger-wagging judgmental person, I’m going to share my imagined list of “Unenforceable Beach Crimes,” while noting which ones that I am personally guilty of.

Hopefully, just detailing these items in writing will encourage others to think about their actions before they ruin someone else’s day at the beach… and by “others,” I naturally mean me.

Beach Crime #1: Near Nudity
Verdict for Yours Truly: Guilty, but Reformed

Nudity is illegal on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, no question.

But what about those cases where you’re not really nude, but where there is literally so little left to the imagination that it’s pretty darn easy to figure out what’s under those precious few inches of spandex?

Granted, I was a guilty of this offense when I was young, and was worried about super important issues like tan lines. In fact, I actually owned bikinis that consisted of three triangles and a few strings, which I still have buried in the back of my closet. (Although, trying them now would reduce both me – and anyone who was an unfortunate witness – to tears.)

So there is a little leeway for the near nudity crime – tan lines are, after all, still a pressing concern – but if you gotta go nearly naked, do it when there is no one around.

There are hundreds of Speedo jokes out there for a reason.

And with the rise of social media and cell phone cameras, the threat of having your privates made public is very real, and should be taken into consideration before wearing anything to the beach that could also double as the material for a slingshot.

Beach Crime #2: Hogging all the Loot while Beachcombing
Verdict for Yours Truly: Guilty as Hell

Have you ever gone to a semi-deserted beach on the hunt for shells or sea glass, and found that there was an incredibly obnoxious person on the shore rooting through every shell pile, picking it clean, and then moving on to the next one like a crazed, starving vulture? That person was most likely me.

I think the majority of beachcombers are wonderful and generous people, until there’s a storm, or a sandbar, or any other circumstances that lead to a beach full of loot.

And then we all just turn feral.

Case in point, I was at my favorite secret shelling beach just a couple months ago, (and you can already tell I’m a jerk because there is absolutely no way I will disclose where it’s located), when I realized that on that particular day, I had walked into Whelk Heaven.

For whatever reason, the recent swell had produced a beach filled with tons of absolutely perfect whelks of all colors and sizes – too many to count – which were ripe for the taking.

Now, a considerate person would pick their favorites, limiting themselves to how many they could actually and comfortably carry, and leave the rest behind for other beachcombers.

Well, I didn’t do that. At all.

I filled my shell bag, and then I took my coat off – even though it was a brand new coat and it was 40 degrees outside – and I filled that too, like a stylish hobo sack.

And then when both my shell bag and my coat overflowed, I found a long ragged tarp that had also washed up, and filled that sucker as well. By the time I was done, and had wrapped up a line of gorgeous whelks in this 8’ foot long tarp, it literally looked like I was carrying a shrouded dead body along the beach while grinning from ear to ear.

In fact, the one person who passed by me while I was heading to my car - grinning and dragging the apparent body bag - gave me such a shocked look that I was sure the authorities were on their way. (I would have called them too, to be honest.)

Anyways, I did in fact receive my comeuppance for this greedy act.

The next day, my arms felt like they had been stretched for hours on a medieval rack, and a few days after that, I encountered an angry cottonmouth while en route to the same spot – which I figured was a sign that I had been too greedy, and was therefore banned from the beach for a while.

So take what you can actually carry when it comes to beachcombing – not what you can haul away in a makeshift body bag – and keep the greed to the minimum, if you can.

And if you can’t follow this advice, don’t feel bad at all. When the getting’s good, it’s hard to stick to tasteful decorum, and to being the classy person that you are when great shells are not involved.

Beach Crime #3: Nosie Pollution due to Really Bad Music
Verdict for Yours Truly: Guilty, but in Denial

Sometimes, you set up camp near another group on the beach who have their radio blaring, and you’re delighted to find that they have exceptionally great taste in music. (I’ve found that most of the time, these awesome people have their truck radio set to 101.5, which never disappoints.)

Other times, their musical inclinations are not as enjoyable.

Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy hard-core rap, techno, and metal as much as the next person who grew up in the 90s, and who therefore automatically has music tastes that can be defined as “questionable.” (Britany Spears or Chumbawamba, anyone?)

But when I’m trying to relax, hearing a barrage of curse words at a ridiculously fast pace tends to detract from my moment of Zen. (Also, Taylor Swift.)

Now am I guilty of this crime? I would respond with “no,” but I assure you that everyone else around me would say “Most definitely, yes.”

It was only recently that I discovered that most of the music-listening universe does not share my appreciation for KC and the Sunshine Band, Nickelback (in limited doses, mind you), and literally anything with a banjo.

So if you have bad taste in music, keep it quiet.

And if you don’t think you have bad taste in music, but everyone grimaces when you try to take control of the playlist at a party, or refuses to get into your car unless your radio is broken, keep it quiet too.

And don’t worry if you suddenly discover you taste in music goes against the grain of good taste like I did. After all, if you can’t dance in your living room to the contagious chorus of “Ladies Night” after three beers, then what’s the point of living?

Beach Crime #4: Horrible, Distracted Driving
Verdict for Yours Truly: Pleading the Fifth

Forget about the rules and frustrations of driving on the beach - trying to navigate N.C. Highway 12 in the summer is easily the pinnacle of unenforceable beach crime.

First and foremost, there are the people passing on the right – an unusual rule to get used to for sure if you don’t have it in your region, (and most of the country doesn’t), but something that surely can be picked up within a day or two of being on the islands.

Then, there are the people that HAVE to go 20 mph over the speed limit - because Lord knows the beach won’t be there if they arrive 5 minutes late - and who literally have to rub up against your bumper to get to where they are going. (Seriously, buy a Jeep dinner first, if you don’t mind.)

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have the folks on that nondescript stretch of highway between Avon and Buxton – where there are literally no turns and no distractions – who are cruising at a steady 35 mph, and who slow down at the sight of every quasi-interesting sand dune.

Simply put, if you ever have a need to blow off a little steam, and to yell at people from the comfort of your car’s interior, then head to the highway in the summertime.

But as much as I love to complain about Highway 12 – and let’s face it, we all do – I’m honestly as guilty as the rest of them.

I slow down when I’m being indecisive over whether I want to take a detour along Ramp 27 or 30. I’ll speed up when I’m in an apparent hurry for nothing more important than trying to hit up Orange Blossom Bakery before it closes. And just last week, I accidently slammed on my breaks when I realized the Dairy Queen in Avon had reopened for the season – cause, Blizzards!

So I suppose the general rule of thumb when it comes to driving on the beach or on the pavement is the same – quit being distracted and pay attention.

I promise I’ll do my part if you do too, (although my apologies in advance if I screech to a stop and pull into Dairy Queen at the last minute because the Cookie Dough is calling, and I must respond.)

Make no mistake that when it comes to my beach offenses list, I could easily keep going. There are those loud obnoxious people who annoy everyone at the local bar (guilty), those inexperienced anglers who get their lines tangled up with anyone within 100 yards of their casting spot (guilty), or those folks who wear sandals with socks - (also, guilty. And they are sometimes Christmas-themed socks to boot.)

But I do believe that I have incriminated myself enough at this point, and in any case, I think the overall lesson in all of these offenses is the same. Do unto others on the beach, and you won’t commit an unenforceable beach crime.

I assure you, you’ll never have to worry about seeing me on the beach in a slingshot bathing suit, or playing my beloved KC and the Sunshine Band without earphones again. I’ve learned my lesson.

Now when it comes to shells, well, that’s another story altogether.

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