By Alan S. Chartock | May 31, 2020

Are you a daughter or a son of a beach? As a kid, I spent my summers on Fire Island. I loved the sounds of the ocean and the breaking waves. I loved the smell of the sand and water. I loved seeing all those folks out there having a good time and yes, I even loved the omni-present smell of sun tan lotion. Once into adolescence, I loved the bikinis that were on display. I loved “riding the waves” on my rubber raft. With all that said, you might think I am a committed beach person but alas, that is not the case. In fact, while I love several mile walks on the beach, I have come to have real questions about the sand and sea.

First of all, I read everything I can about the coronavirus and the more I read, the more frightened I get. There is so much to worry about that every time I think I have a handle on what this virus is, I find out about something new that can destroy you. As a 78 year old, I know that a single false move — that’s right, I said a single false move — and I’ll be a goner. So when I turn on the TV and see crowds of people congregating on beaches and acting as though they haven’t got a care in the world, in the middle of a global pandemic, I get, well, concerned, both for them and for me. We know, don’t we, that crowds are killers. I love the guy who runs my local movie theater but you had better believe that it will be a long time before you find me there. But beaches? Are you crazy?

It doesn’t stop there, of course. Every time I hear about a shark attack, I wonder why anyone would chance a dip in the surf.

Then there are all those people, sometimes strong swimmers, who go for a swim in the ocean and never come back. Sometimes they are grabbed by the rip tide. I personally know of three people who suffered that fate and you had better believe it is a serious risk.

There is the matter of the sun. The very sun that so many people worship is a killer. I can’t tell you the number of people who have had to have suffered serious skin damage, to the point of cancer, as a result of too much time in the sun. Once you get out in that beach sun which is reflected by the sand, you are literally cooking yourself. Of course you will tell me that you use sun screen and that you reapply it every time you get out of the water or that you have an umbrella to protect yourself with but you forget all the times you get onto the beach just for a few minutes to talk to someone and stay just a little longer.

Of course, there are beach sports. On Fire Island there was something called “V Ball.” It was different than volley ball, in which players rotate positions. In V ball, once you have a position like “server,” that’s your spot as if you were Mickey Mantle playing center field when we used to have baseball. I can’t tell you how many people I know who never left the V Ball court. Now you may think that because I am not much of an athlete, I am belittling those who are or were. Possible, of course, but also correct. If you don’t believe me, ask qualified dermatologists what they can tell you about the damage caused by sun.

Sometimes we get lucky, I wasn’t a real beach kid, I stayed home and read the Hardy Boys on the porch. I wasn’t smart, that’s just the way the cookie crumbled. But I wrote this out of frustration, watching people hurt themselves when they really ought to know better. I’m sure that you understand that.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].