July 2015

Beach Bummed

Author: Courtney Hampson

I logged onto Facebook this morning, for my daily news dose, and one of my colleagues, we’ll call him Brooklyn (because, well, that’s what I call him), was posting pictures from the Point Pleasant, New Jersey boardwalk. And a million memories came flooding back: the tastes, the sounds, the bright colors of the Jersey Shore.

And alas, the smell of cigarette smoke and Coppertone—a smell so distinct that I can recall it on a whim. And when it hits my olfactory nerve in real time, I immediately think of home. Now, I don’t smoke. My parents don’t smoke. In fact, I find the habit rather disgusting. But, something about summer makes it okay. That mix of smoke and sunblock just brings me back to the Shore, my hometown (and Jon Bon Jovi’s and Springsteen’s), my childhood, and where I learned to appreciate the sand, the sun, and the perks of living in a tourist town.

When my niece EmmaKate first learned to talk, she had a raspy voice and a touch of a Long (hard G) Island accent. Part of me secretly never wanted that to go away. Hi, this is my niece, EmmaKate. She looks four, but she is actually a 70-year-old broad from Long Island who has been smoking for six decades, and summers at the Shore.

Why is this relevant? Well, because Noah’s mom is a smoker.
Who is Noah, you ask?
Well, he’s the kid who used his boogie board as a kite, on Folly Field beach, for more than an hour last Saturday.
I know his name is Noah, because his mom yelled it, in her LonG Island accent for at least three hours.
“Noah, stop.”
“Noah, pay attention.”
“Noah, it’s a dolphin.”
“Noah let’s go into the water; come on Noah.”
“Let’s go. Leave the chips, Noah. Let’s go in the water.”
Giving me no-ah peace and quiet.

Noah, his mom, and the rest of their family had an amazing day at the beach. And once I reminded myself that my home is where they choose to vacation, I chuckled. I mean, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to remind myself of that fact.

The Jersey Shore is a tourist spot so popular that year-round residents sometimes suffer the negative effects of traffic, bar fights, over-zealous Drakkar Noir applications, and the inability to navigate a jug-handle. Sometimes the anger so profound, that we draw upon the derogatory term, “Benny” to refer to these unpleasant tourists.

While the origin of the term is disputed, one common theory, including my mom’s (and she has proven to always be right), says that Benny is an acronym for the cities beachgoers live in: Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, and New York. Needless to say, come Memorial Day weekend, we were inundated, and only come Labor Day would the tides of tourists subside.

With 127 miles of oceanfront and 40 communities dotting the coastline, there were plenty of places to find respite and fellow locals. My childhood summer memories include days on the beach, navigating the waves on my boogie board, nights on the Boardwalk eating Kohr’s ice cream cones and playing skee ball.

So, it is no coincidence that my relocation brought me to another coastal tourist hot spot, one that attracts folks from all over Ohio… I mean, all over the country. More than 80 percent of whom return year after year to this place, that we are so lucky to call home.

Now, I know I am not a Bluffton/Hilton Head local. I mean I’ve only lived here for a decade, so I am a million years short of earning that title; but I remain ever-protective of this treasure.

But, dear Hilton Head can you hook a girl up and pretty, pretty please fix the parking meters at Driessen Beach Park? One of the two has been broken for the last four weekends, and I am losing my ability to be nice to the kind visitors who are backed up 30-deep to attempt to slide the most crumpled, ripped, abused dollar bills into the meter. I tried last week, I really did. I engaged in conversation, asked where they were from (Ohio, duh) and even made jokes like, “Surely there are parking meters in Ohio, right? You can do this!”

Anyway, two working meters, instead of one means we only wait in line for nine and a half minutes, instead of the dreaded 19 (true story), and doubles the chances that I won’t offend someone while standing in line. I think we can all agree that would be a good thing, for tourism and perhaps humanity.

Now, let’s talk about where you should build your sand castle. Not directly over my left shoulder. End of story.

I beg of you, please don’t make me address the sea gulls again. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know this is a hot button for me, and I have written about these dirty birds before, so I will keep it simple. Don’t offer your cheese puffs to the sea gulls for lunch. We appreciate your hospitality, but the sea gull’s defecation reaction is almost instantaneous. Sea gulls don’t follow the “don’t $hit where you eat” mantra. The bottom line is, if they are eating off of your beach towel, they will probably be pooping there too (and maybe on mine!). Just saying.

Now, it isn’t only on the beaches at summer where we feel the heat of the visitors. Just today, I sat at Tanger Outlet II as a minivan from Pennsylvania (and I can make fun of them because I have lived there), backed out, and pulled back in, and backed out, and pulled back in, and backed out, and pulled back into the same parking space. For no apparent reason. Two hours later, while in the Whittaker Street Garage in Savannah, I stopped short as the same exact minivan (no one has that many stickers—or honor roll kids—on their back window) was backing out of his space, only to pull back in again. Maybe this is some new-fangled Pennsylvania parking trend?

The grocery stores are more crowded. The lines are longer at our favorite watering holes. The circles on the Bluffton Parkway become all the more treacherous. Tee times are few. And, sometimes we have to remind ourselves why we live here.

And it is totally worth it. When the sun tickles your skin, and the salty sea fills the air, there is nothing more perfect than calling this place home. 

  1. Dear Courtney,
    In JUNE 2011: A Line In The Sand – Why Bluffton Is Better than Hilton Head, you wrote “At first, I was all about going to the beach on Hilton Head” and “Then I discovered the May River and realized I never had to leave Bluffton.” It seems to me that makes YOU a visitor, too!! But if the beaches on the island get to be too much for you, you could just stick your toes in that pluff mud!
    By the way, you also wrote “Without Bluffton, how exactly would you get to Hilton Head?” My response to that is, we would get there A LOT QUICKER!!!

    — Suzi Huisman    Jul 2, 03:33 pm   

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