Life's a Beach. A Syringe-Filled Beach

FYI: If you come across this on your beach clean-up, don’t attempt to fit it into your plastic bag. And if you do, use gloves.

I participated in the Great American Clean-Up yesterday and helped to clean up a beach. I resisted the urge to use the day as an excuse to straighten out my garage or wash my car, like some people I know. (You know who you are, you Ecovillains. Remember Captain Planet? My favorite Ecovillain was Verminous Skumm, “part man, part rat creature who represents the evils of poor sanitation and crime.”)

I was lucky enough to be assigned to a beautiful beach, in McArthur Park. It poured down rain when we first arrived, which prompted my husband to ask the first 12 people he encountered, “What will happen to the cake?” (Get it? Cake, rain and McArthur Park?) How people reacted to the question separated the crowd into three distinct groups: People old enough to remember when Richard Harris was a singer; people who think Richard Harris’ career began with Dumbledore; and people who waited half the day for cake to be served. Some little kids cried. Nice going.

McArthur Park’s beach is relatively clean. You have to pay to get into the park, so this beach is not Number 1 on the list of beaches to go drink, have sex, and shoot up, which, according to the cleaners at other beaches, is what our Atlantic coast has been rezoned for.

It’s disgusting what you find on the beach. At a previous beach clean-up I did, I was with a group of high school band kids. High school kids are the best beach cleaners. They’re so enthusiastic to save the world and they have super human powers, so when I found a big splintery board with nails sticking out of it, I just turned to a tuba player and said, “Could you carry this back to the trash?” Of course he could. Those kids not only picked up trash big and small from the beach, they went back into the mangroves and sea grapes and cleared out a couple of drinking-drugs-and-sex lairs. I think they were providing on-site counseling and spraying Febreze by the end of the day.

At my beach clean-up yesterday, I didn’t find anything very exciting. Some people did find pockets of beer cans and used condoms. Someone found a half-bitten-off flip-flop, which I think he should have turned over to the police for evidence in a missing boater case, but the authorities were not notified. I found an inordinate number of cigarillo tips.

There are just a lot of bad habits being performed on our beaches. Unhealthy, cancer-causing, misbehavior-inducing activities. Although the condoms mean that at least people are having protected sex, which is better than the alternative. So when you don’t find condoms on the beach, I guess that’s even worse.

My friend Mary Anne, who cleaned up another beach yesterday, thinks it’s notable that on a day that all good people are supposed to make the earth a more beautiful place, half of us are spending the day cleaning up after the other half, who have spent the last 364 days tossing their empty beer cans, Styrofoam cups, broken sand toys, and Swisher Sweets all over our beautiful beaches.

If all those people spent as much time looking for a job and getting an apartment, where they set up a nice indoor den of sin, maybe for next year’s Great American Clean-Up we can all  work on spiffing up my garage.

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