It's funny how sometimes we picture or imagine things going a certain way and in the end, they turn out to be almost opposite of what we originally thought. I had one of those experiences today. Yesterday evening my youngest son told me that a friend from school had invited some friends to her house at Folly Beach to spend the day at the beach. He was interested in going but wasn't sure whether he would have a ride, since my wife is still teaching school this week and he wasn't sure what my plans were. At first I thought that there might be an opportunity to look for a carpool partner, then when that didn't look like it was going to work, I volunteered to "take one for the team" and "suck it up" and drive him to the beach and then hang out at the beach myself for the day. Yes, I felt a little tinge of guilt, knowing that I would be relaxing at the beach while my wife was wrangling first graders on the verge of their summer vacation. As the guilt subsided I was somehow able to look forward to a day on the beach, alone.
I pictured myself having a very relaxing day, not burdened with all of the preparation that usually goes along with a day trip to the beach, you know, packing coolers, lugging sand toys, frisbees, footballs and boogie boards. No wife, no kids, just me my Ipod and a good book. So off we went, after I loaded my chair and beach umbrella, sunglasses on and Ipod in tow. I dropped Noah off at his friends house up near the Washout at Folly and I headed for the area of the beach near the Folly Fishing Pier. That would provide me with a prime beach spot, close to downtown Folly Beach so I could walk up from the beach at lunchtime and grab lunch and a refreshment whenever I felt like it.
All was going well, until I parked and began to gather my "light load" to carry with me to my waterside oasis for the day. Then it hit me, I was in a bit of a predicament. How was I going to carry a chair, a beach towel, a book, sunscreen, a beach umbrella and a beach umbrella sand auger all by myself? Unless of course, I loaded most of the things into that nice, cute, beach tote that the wife uses, you know the one with the nice embroideried beach umbrella and chair. For a minute I considered it, then all I could picture would be men and teenagers snickering as I walked past them, toting my girly girl tote bag. Now I had carried that same tote down to the beach at least a hundred times and never thought anything of it, but, that was when my wife was with me and I never felt exposed as a girly girl tote toter, I was being a he-man chivalrous gentleman carrying my wifes heavy bag for her. Not to worry, I figured it out. I would just use the East Bay Deli take out bag that earlier had Noah's lunch in it before he ate the whole thing whilst I drove him to the beach.
It wasn't until I was half way down the beach that it hit me, how ridiculous this chubby forty-something old dude looked walking by himself with a bulging shopping bag that announced to the world, EAST BAY DELI TAKEOUT. In my mind, I could hear the comments, "just look at that poor man, he couldn't even come to the beach without bringing a sack full of food." Or worse yet, "no wonder that fellow is so portly, look at that grocery bag of takeout." These people have no idea that I do a daily 2.5 mile walk/run and that I'm in relatively good cardiovascular condition, for a dough boy. Finally, I made it to my appointed position along the beach seemingly with my unforseen quandary behind me.
I positioned my umbrella perfectly tilted into the sea breeze, settled into my beach chair, chose a Jimmy Buffett shuffle on the Ipod and opened my book and began to read. All was going well until I took a break from reading and began gazing down the beach, fixating on the waves as they gently rolled upon to the shore. Then it occurred to me, no it hit me like a ton of bricks. Every women that was walking up the beach was detouring around my little piece of paradise. No kidding, they were avoiding walking between me and the ocean. They were walking out of their way to avoid what they obviously presumed was the dirty old man sitting alone at the beach behind mirrored sunglasses. Are you kidding me? Really? No. Yes, it was happening, and it was blatantly obvious as I watched one after another, shift course to avoid coming near me. I uncomfortably changed the direction of my gaze, then realizing, "Great, dummy, now they do think you were staring at them and when they caught you then you quickly looked away." Finally, I just gave in, picked up my book and immersed myself into C.S. Lewis once again. And I read, and I read, and I read some more. Needless to say, the relaxing day by myself at the beach, with no kids constantly wanting me to get in the ocean and ride the waves. And the carefree day of not having to worry about my wife being comfortable or properly shaded by the umbrella or thirsty or hungry was turning into a very stress filled excursion. Jeesh, where are my wife and sons when I need them? Who's idea was this anyway? What time is it? How much longer do I have to waste time before it is time to go and pick him up? And, the real kicker, just then I realized I hadn't put any sunscreen on my back, and of course I can't reach my back to put sunscreen on now, what am I gonna do? "Pardon me Miss, would you mind..."