Bethany Sanders: We went to the beach on the 4th. Since it was a holiday, I gave in and let my kids haul in three of their biggest, most colorful floats, including a six-foot inflatable turtle. Big mistake -- and not just because those suckers got really heavy after the first 50 yards.
No, it was a mistake because those floats were like kid magnets all day long. First came a gaggle of 14-year-old boys:
Boys: "Hey, can we use that turtle?"
Me, looking around for their parents and seeing none in sight, knowing I wouldn't see our float again until I had to chase it down when it was time to leave: "No."
I said it as sweetly as possible, but I'm pretty sure it was one of them who later "accidentally" almost hit me with a Frisbee.
It's not that I'm opposed to sharing, it's just that sometimes it feels like open season on inflatables at the beach. Anyway, not too long after that, a young dad asked if he could use my 5-year-old's "learn to swim" ring for his baby -- the ring that my daughter was wearing at that moment.
"Well, I brought it for her to use," I said. "How about when she's done?"
The dad walked away in a huff. Even so, I brought it over to him 20 minutes later -- an act of kindness that he apparently didn't even think deserved a "thank you."
It's like this: I went to the store. I spent $14.99. I blew these things up with my husband's bicycle pump, which involved lots of hand-cramping and no small amount of swearing. I stuffed them into the back of the car, then I dragged them a half mile to the place I was now sitting. I'm like the Little Red Hen: I did the work, so you can't have any. You don't see me reaching into your cooler for a sandwich, do you? Or asking to use your towel? I brought these things here for my kids to enjoy. If your kids would like to play with my kids, great. If not, there's a Target five miles down the road.
So that's obviously my biggest pet peeve:
1) People who want to use the stuff YOU brought for your own kids.
Here are a few more beach pet peeves of mine:
2) Parents who don't watch their kids. While my husband dragged two (extra) little girls around on our turtle float, their parents spent the whole time faced away from the water snoozing. I guess they assumed he'd keep them safe, but that also meant that he felt responsible for their safety even after they were done playing with our kids.
3) Parents who think their thieving toddlers are cute. Yes, it is adorable when your 2-year-old pilfers a shovel or can't help but walk away with a squirt gun. I'm laughing with you, and I'm glad to see him having fun. But when he starts rooting around in my bag, it's time for you to swoop in and find something else for him to do.
4) People who think their music is universally liked. Background music doesn't bother me in the least, and I expect the beach to be noisy. But when you plop down next to me and start blaring speed metal, it makes me feel a little like burying you and your music player in the sand ... headfirst.
5) Crowders/space hogs: The beach is a big place, so let's all give each other a little space -- especially if you're the speed-metal guy from above. Likewise, when conditions are crowded, it's common sense to consolidate so that you're not taking up more than your fair share of sand.
(Rounding out my top ten are: smokers, litterers, people who feed the waterfowl, the family who sets up a full-on canopy next to me and blocks my sun and parents who refuse to teach their children the art of common courtesy.)
I've had my say; let's hear yours: What are your rules for beach etiquette?