Old Cantankerous


It was a little before 7 when I got to the beach this morning, and the sky was just beginning to light up. On the horizon, there were clumps of purple clouds piled up, and behind them, the burnt glow of the rising sun.

I wasn’t the only one out there.

I could see the silhouettes of about fifteen or twenty people along the shoreline, most with cameras, some with cameras on tripods. I threw my chair in the sand next to the pier and sat down. I was in a black mood. I didn’t know why, but I suspected the people had something to do with it. I had expected to come there and be alone, at one with my thoughts, the ocean, the sun. Instead, my view was fouled by a mob of people who had come – not necessarily to see or experience the sunrise – but to provide evidence of it on some social media site later that day, accompanied (most likely) by some recycled life-coaching advice about how you should embrace beauty, or be a mindful, good person. It’s funny how the wisest sages I’ve ever encountered have been twentysomething bimbos on Instagram.

I sat there stewing.

I’m deleting all my social media accounts, I thought. I cursed myself for having wasted so much time on them over the years.

For nothing.

I’m deleting everything, I told myself. I can’t contribute to that plastic world anymore. It gets more plastic every time I look at it.

I dug my feet in the cool sand, listening to the wood pigeon cooing from the pier and watching the sky slowly change color. It was now a lighter, transparent blue, beams of sunlight bursting through the clouds, throwing crimson light on the waves, glittering in the foamy tidepools. A seagull sailed over the surf, its reflection mirrored in the sands. I could smell the salt and the strong odor of fish in the air and felt a cool breeze lifting the hairs on my arms. But my mood was still black. I couldn’t contemplate with so many people around. There’s nothing worse than being in public – whether it be the beach, the supermarket, the driver’s license bureau, the public transport system – and having to share a small space with a lot of people you want nothing to do with. I often liked individuals. It was large, protean, faceless masses of humanity I couldn’t stand. Listening to their babble, their dumb opinions, looking at the senseless backs of their necks, their hairlines, waistlines, thier unoriginal existences. Like I say, I was in a foul, cantankerous mood.

He came from the north.

A man of about fifty. He came loping along with his tripod, planted it in the sand about 10 feet in front of me, and stood there blocking my view of the sunrise. I waited for a moment for him turn around and notice me, but he never did. He was completely oblivious to everything behind him. Could he really be that self-absorbed? I thought about saying something. Then I had this fantasy about marching over there, wrestling his tripod from him and hurling it in the ocean. I got out of my chair, walked around him without saying anything. I stood on the shoreline directly where his camera was pointed. I squatted down and began talking my own photos.

When I turned around he was gone; my mood elevated after that.

I took my chair to the other side of the pier where it was less crowded; took a sea bath, floated on my back looking up at the sky, went underwater and stayed under for as long as I could hold my breath.

I liked it best underwater.

There were no people under there.


12 thoughts on “Old Cantankerous

  1. I’d feel exactly the same if I had gone somewhere to be alone and found people.

    One of the major tourist attractions in Santorini is the sunset from Oia. When it’s time, everyone flocks to a specific spot to take pictures of it.

  2. I feel the same way about the small spaces and too many strangers… except in bars… a few drinks always get me into the community spirit. 😉 but I agree. I’m so disappointed these past years that EVERy single experience is experienced first through a lens, maybe only through a lens. It’s akin to no one being able to sit around without staring at their little 4×3 screens… I sometimes refuse to take out my camera, just to force myself to try and save the image in my head.

    • Refusing to take out your camera and trying to remember the image is a great idea. I need to do that too more often… having a camera at the ready at all times has it’s benefits, but it’s important to know when to say when. Most people don’t. They are so overwhelmed by the urge to reach for their cameras, all imagination goes out the window, along with the experience.

  3. That’s precisely how I feel. I wrote about it too; didn’t publish it yet, though. So did Bukowski, you’ll see my last post.
    I didn’t delete my SM accounts, but made some private and stick to the people I know and feel comfortable with. It’s the quality that counts.

  4. I have read more recently that people are actually no longer allowed to visit and enter a place named Walker Canyon in California which got overrun by Instagram users to photograph the now blossoming poppy flowers. This not only led to traffic chaos at this lovely place but also resulted in a lot of stamped down and destroyed flowers by these “nature lovers”. Crazy!

    • That’s hilarious, and totally pathetic. Instagram is like cat nip to the most superficial people in the world. Always preaching kindness, and love, and equality, but stamping out every flower that gets in their way. Total barbarians.

  5. I almost got trampled by bicyclists running red lights this morning, my mood was so black I felt like kicking their wheels from the side. Was is it about crowds that make people lose their common sense?!

    • Aw, I sympathize… and wish you did give a swift kick. Hahah. “You ask me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd.” ~ Seneca

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