Due to a full weekend of yoga – 17 hours over three days – I haven’t spent any time at the ‘puter so pretend with me that you are immersed in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, feeling the hot sun on your face and drinking a cold beer (or margarita, mimosa, white wine, water, lemonade, champagne . . . whatever!)
Sometimes I feel we just don’t get out much. But when we do . . . .
This time, we stood scratching our heads in front of a pay-for-your-parking machine in the street at Rehoboth Beach.
Jimmy had parked opposite a likely looking bar called the Purple Parrot. “It says $1.50 an hour. If I put four quarters in that should give us time to get a cup of coffee across the street.” He put the four coins in and a digital screen asked us for our parking space number. Conveniently, the number was under the car.
Not sure who was at fault there – Jimmy for parking on it, or the man with his paint pot for putting the number in a dumb place. Jimmy entered the number of the space in front of us – which was empty – 43. A young man stood behind us, waiting his turn to pay.
“What do I do now?” Jimmy asked me.
“I don’t know. I haven’t got my glasses on.” Helpful as ever I bent over, squinted at the screen and shook my head to confirm my uselessness, too idle to root around in my handbag for my glasses. A young woman drifted up and stood behind the man. This put pressure on us to look like we knew what we were doing.
“I’m sorry to hold you up.”
“That’s OK.” The young man smiled at us, not a pitying smile, but a patient one.
We hunched together and muttered to each other in a vain attempt not to look stupid. “Where’s the ticket?” We were looking for the ticket for the windshield.
“I don’t know. Did you press enter?”
“Of course I did!”
“I can’t see where it comes out.”
At this point, both of us flummoxed, Jimmy had to abandon his man behavior and ask for help. He turned to the chap waiting behind us, “I’m sorry. Do you know how these things work?”
He grinned. “We have tech support right here.” He stepped aside and the young woman, apparently his girlfriend, came up to the screen and peered.
That was gratifying. He didn’t know how it worked either.
“Let’s see,” and she pressed the screen, “You’ve put in one dollar and you’ve got 38 minutes in space 43. She looked up to see the empty space 43 in front of us all. Again we got the patience-with-old-people smile.
“I’ll move the car,” Jimmy blurted, only too happy to exit the embarrassing situation. It seemed pointless trying to explain why we’d paid for an empty parking space. To their credit, neither of them seemed exasperated with us, especially when I said, just to confirm . . . confirm what . . . my cluelessness? “So there’s no ticket then.”
“No. It’s all computerized.”
I shrugged, grimaced and raised my eyebrows in a golly gee sort of way and said apologetically, “We don’t keep up,” while Jimmy moved the car from what I could now see was space 42. That would make sense as it was next to the two empty spaces 43 and 44 but we’d been too rattled to work that out.
Only 10 minutes of the already paid for 40 had been wasted.
We put our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Jimmy felt quite pleased with his achievement after driving 8,000 miles to get there from Washington State (although it is only about 3,000 miles in a straight line. Ho hum). “Not so much of an achievement for you,” he said. “You knew where you were going.” You might dispute that if you’d seen us driving up and down the coast at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, doing U-turns and snarling up the heavy traffic towing our ponderous trailer looking for State Park signs. All my fault.
Days earlier, Jimmy had been reading the guide book and asked, “Have you heard of Myrtle Beach?”
“Well it says here it’s a really tacky seaside town.”
“We’ve got to go there, don’t you think?”
So there we were, happily camped at the Myrtle Beach State Park, an unadulterated two mile stretch of sandy beach and dunes, with towering hotels visible to the north and south. “Our” beach was interrupted only by the narrow boardwalk which snakes through the dunes, put there to stop us trampling the natural habitat.
As we walked along the surf, a snowman appeared in the distance. People gathered around it, obviously posing for pictures. I thought I saw the snowman move and then spotted Dracula. Well it was nearly Halloween. As we got nearer, we could see the group was a wedding party. The snowman was a beaming bride in a flowing white dress and shimmery shawl and Dracula turned out to be the vicar. It must be time to get my eyes tested.
As we strolled along we stopped to read the nature information boards placed along the walkways. Sea turtles somehow find their way to this small piece of tranquil beach, sandwiched as it is between resorts, to clamber out at night and lay their eggs. Dolphins are visible along this stretch of coast in October and November making their migration to warmer waters. “Look! There’s one now,” I said as I caught a splash out of the corner of my eye and conjuring up a sighting.
“Oh, sure.” We tell each other so many tall tales that it is now difficult for either of us to know when the other is telling the truth. It is particularly difficult to convince the other if the truth is a little too convenient.
We made our way out onto the fishing pier. A fishing pier in a conservation area – a bit of an oxymoron? But this is America, and huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ is part of the culture of this young nation which not so long ago was a wilderness. Several fishermen, survival coded into their DNA, lined the pier dressed in camouflage gear in order to hide from the fish. I’d been scanning the ocean eagerly looking for dolphins, ever hopeful. “There’s another one!”
“I’m not kidding!” I said rushing up to the rail to get two feet closer to my sighting which was at least half a mile out at sea.
Well it is my fault. I’ve pointed out too many “bears” to Jimmy over the last few months, turning every shadow into a creature. He has long since learned to ignore my wildlife sightings.
“I’m serious,” I shrieked, my voice rising an octave. “Just look out there,” and I stood at point like a hunting dog. Something about my tone or posture made Jimmy deign to look in the direction I was pointing.
“I see it!!” he yelled, joining in my exhilaration at last. The dolphins were indeed swimming south to warmer waters as they disappeared behind the end of the pier. We rushed along to see them come around the pier and proceed to feed right in front of us in ones and twos, some pairs being mother and calf. “See?”
“I told you so.”
“You never believe me.”
“Yes I do.”
“One of these days you’ll miss the sight of your life.”
“Oh, shut up and watch.”
The dolphins’ characteristic arcing, with dorsal fin appearing and disappearing, was mesmerizing and we would occasionally see a spout of water from their blowhole or a tail fluke. One energetic fellow leapt out of the water completely and slapped himself broadside into the sea three times creating a show and eliciting shrieks from his audience on the pier.
We really had seen a bear some months previously. He had to run out in the road in front of our car for us to spot him. It was hardly a PBS “Nature” moment, but exciting nonetheless, just as our dolphin watch was.
P.S. We missed hearing our freight trains in Myrtle Beach as we have come to expect them right next to the campsite and feel comforted by them chugging past, but we’ve gone one better. As we sat round the campfire, our singsong was interrupted every five minutes by a jet screaming directly overhead. We were right next to an international airport.
An apology to the residents of Myrtle Beach:
We liked Myrtle Beach. Jimmy had been reading out of a snobby guide book that really only praises the National Parks. If you want to visit a tacky seaside town, England has quite a good selection.