It was 83° in South Florida Friday, one of the hottest Christmases on record. I went to the beach with my chair and my umbrella and my two good friends, Seneca and Plato. It was crowded out there. Not too bad at first, but not like what I’m used to. Of course I wasn’t sitting in my normal semi-secluded spot. I was on the south side of the Pompano Beach Pier near the volleyball nets, and close to the public parking lot.
I plunked my chair down in the sand, affixed my dad’s Isle Casino umbrella to the top of it, sat down and gazed out at the sea. Gorgeous. Emerald-green in the shallows, riptides swirling, the foamy breakers rolling into shore, one after the other, soft, meditative… A seagull swims in the air above, dives, twirling through the crystalline blue. Another one appears and goes into a similar acrobatic, both of them soaring in sync, as though to music only they could hear.
I suppose I’d been regarding this vision for about five minutes when it was suddenly corrupted by a square-headed guy, with a short neck, a squarish torso, and short, bandy legs, mincing to and fro on his cellphone. He was talking to someone that needed to know he was at this enchanting beach, even though the surroundings of the place were devastatingly boring to him, otherwise he wouldn’t have called. And what were they talking about? Football scores? Line-dancing? Money? Booze? Wet burritos? Full-body condoms? The Hungarian campaign of 1527-28?
He finally scuttled off and was replaced by an attractive couple in their 20s, armed with a selfie stick, probably a Christmas present. They stood just a little to the left, facing me so that ocean was behind them. They then put their arms around each other, held the stick out, smiled and snapped a photo. Then they drew the stick in with a lightning quick velocity to see how they’d been captured. They did this about five times and I couldn’t help but think I’d just witnessed what would later that day appear of Facebook, as a means to inspire both envy and awe. “Look at our blissful existence, friends, Romans, and countrymen! So beautiful are we to the outward eye, we must, on the inside, be more beautiful still!”
It never ceases to amaze me how deceitful pictures people post from their daily lives on the internet can be. We see them and often forget the hidden subtext. We almost forget they are human beings, susceptible to the same things that plague us all: frustration, sadness, rage, despair, headaches, heartburn, bad breath, ingrown toenails, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, slow-decay, death, and so forth and so on.
It was starting to get hot under my umbrella, so went into the ocean and floated on my back for a while. It wasn’t easy. I was getting assaulted by an endless succession of waves, and the riptides, according to the sign the put up, were life threatening. Another problem was all the people out there. The crowd seemed to have doubled since I got there, and everywhere I looked, I saw some idiot splashing through the water, a clump of seaweed on his head, spewing out mouthfuls of brine.
“You ask me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd.” ~ Seneca
Soon I got out, went back under my umbrella, and escaped into my books for the rest of the afternoon.