I just returned from a vacation at the beach and I'm happy to report that I survived, unscathed, the perilous journey into what has apparently become a “Hell on Earth” scenario wrought with danger. Let me explain.
I grew up near the Gulf Coast region of Texas and in the past going to the beach was something you did for fun without too much thought. For those of you without a map, the beaches of Texas are located on the Gulf of Mexico - which unlike the rest of the world's oceans seem to be a kinder and gentler beach. As an example, our worst jellyfish is the Portuguese Man-o-war* which has quite a nasty sting. But, when compared to Australia’s Box Jellyfish, which can kill you in mere minutes, its a pussy.
The worst incidents that I had ever heard of back then, were about people that were unfortunate enough to have stepped on a stingray and were stabbed in the foot or leg with the sharp barb that is located in it's tail. In Texas, shark attacks are almost unheard of, so we didn't really worry about them unless we saw one swimming in the vicinity or went and watched the movie “Jaws”. So, really the biggest concern I had in my youth was maybe getting too much sun, which at worst could be pretty painful and you'd look like a bipedal snake for few days as the damaged skin peeled off - but in a week, you'd be back to “normal”.
As I was visiting the Gulf Coast for a “relaxing” vacation it occurred to me that either the times have really changed or I have. More than likely it is both of these. Although I can still relax, in the background of my thoughts I worry about more things, something I never used to do. An optimist might say that its only because I'm older and therefore wiser to the ways of the world. If you believe that, well you're just stupid.
I think that my problem is, my sense of immortality is gone and my list of dreadful “what ifs” is longer than it ever was in my youth. I could blame my age, but I prefer to blame the media. For example, there were news reports of a shark attack in Galveston a week before I went, as well as reports of people exposed to flesh eating bacteria. These of course, were added to my list.
To illustrate what time has done to me mentally, The following are two different lists of my concerns twenty plus years ago and currently for comparison.
• Sunburn. Pain and peeling skin.
• Stepping on something sharp. Glass, crabs and angry stingrays.
• The dreaded Portuguese Man-o-war. Stings, ouch.
• Sunburn. Pain followed by horrible skin cancer, which will lead to death or dismemberment. (probably both)
• Stepping on something sharp. The same problem as before except now the wound will lead to a horrible infection leading to death or dismemberment.
• The still dreaded Portuguese Man-o-war. Perhaps they have become sentient?
• Crabs. They are not dangerous, but more than once those little bastards have pinched my toes so now I'm paranoid.
• Sharks. I'm sure they are attacking more! I don't have any hard facts to back this up, I just feel it. Its probably a result of mankind's over fishing, forcing them to find a new food source... People!?!
• Flesh eating bacteria. Seriously? WTF? The name says it all. I'll bet it can survive on land - just waiting for it's victims.
• Seafood. Don't eat that! The critters are chock-full of pollution and radioactivity caused by Japanese power plants. (I do have a good recipe for deep-frying radioactive shrimp.)
• Pollution. Don't have your mouth open when a wave crashes onto your face, so that means no laughing or talking, which is good advice whenever anything crashes onto your face.
• Tar. Floating oil balls from drilling. Not only will it never, ever come off, you might get forcefully washed by some roaming environmentalists and “released” back into the ocean.
• Losing your bathing suit. That's actually more scarey for the other beach visitors around you.
• Getting your car stuck in the sand If you don't have roadside assistance or know a couple of rednecks with a 4x4, you can't escape an incoming tidal wave.
• Losing your glasses. Is that a hot babe walking toward you or a zombie? Now I can't tell, thank you astigmatism.
• Rip Tides. Not really an issue on the beaches I frequent, but maybe when I least expect it... glub.
• People. There are a lot of great people in the world but there are also a lot of assholes and common courtesy seems to be rapidly dying, I suspect from the skin cancer it got at the beach.
So there's the list. Keep in mind this is a work in progress. I'm sure with time it will grow longer. Seaweed is creepy when it wraps around your legs unexpectedly, so maybe it will soon be linked to some horrible type of demise that I can add to my list. I'm keeping my fingers crossed! Also, I suspect seagull poop to be more than just gross.
I'm sure you have your own catalog of concerns and if you're not an accomplished worry wort like me, maybe I helped further round out your list. That way you can have a more fulfilling vacation savoring the knowledge that everything is out to get you!! Paranoia is healthy, right?
Enjoy your trip.
*Yes, I know the Portuguese Man-o-war isn't a true jellyfish, but a colony of specialized organisms that float around upon the tides aimlessly, but when necessary will all work together to cause you great pain and suffering. These creatures behave just like any political party.