I have a confession.
I’ve been sneaking out of the house and going to the beach during the pandemic. Apparently, I’m not alone, as I have encountered many others with the same idea.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been working from home since March 11th or the weather is starting to turn in the right direction. Either way, like most of you, I just need to get out once and a while.
I’ve been visiting Jones Beach (Fields 2 and 6) and finding a secluded spot in the parking lots. Once settled, I take out my tail-gating chair and relax in the sun with a nice cigar. Sometimes I’ll bring a book to read, other times a newspaper and do the crossword puzzle. Of course, I can do the same thing in my back yard. For some reason, I just needed to do this someplace else.
My wife has joined me on occasion, allowing us to have lunch in the car. With protective masks, we’ve walked on the boardwalk for exercise. Young, old or families with children, people are starting to come out in the fresh air. For the most part, they are doing it safely.
Recently, we attended a BBQ at my neighbor’s house on Memorial Day weekend. They grouped two chairs, each with a snack table, into little “Safe Zones” in a large circle on their deck. This allowed each couple to sit together, yet still be a reasonable distance from everyone else.
Instead of community bowls of potato chips or pretzels, they provided individual snack bags for noshing. After cooking hot dogs and hamburgers (using masks and gloves) and using the utensils to place them on their buns, the food was set up buffet style. As an alternative to congregating at the patio table for dinner, we assembled a plate (one at a time) and returned to our “Safe Zone” seats.
Was it unusual? Of course. Was it pleasant to get out of the house and see close friends, even sitting at a safe distance? Absolutely.
Human beings are social by nature. We need to interact with each other. We need to laugh at stupid jokes and tell our pandemic and social distancing nightmare stories. At the end of the evening, the prevailing sentiment was, “Man, we really needed that!”
Earlier that weekend, my wife and I visited TOBAY beach. It’s the first time I had been on the beachside in many years. I’ve been to the restaurants many times, but not to the beach itself. Man, have things changed.
Setting our chairs up on the open deck area, we spent the late afternoon gazing into the ocean. There were plenty of signs suggesting you stay at least six feet from each other and people were adhering to the guidelines. Most were wearing masks, some had on gloves. Everyone was avoiding physical closeness.
I bought a soda and a couple of watermelon fruit-ice bars from the concession stand. Dare I say that for the first time in a long time, things seem to be returning to some form of normalcy. Except, there were markers on the ground to indicate where each person on the line should stand, reminding you to maintain the recommended distancing.
It made me think back to the last time I was at TOBAY. It was a Sunday afternoon in October that turned into evening, the last weekend of the summer season at the “The Surf Shack” restaurant. The classic rock cover band drew so many people, getting a table was near impossible. People were congregating and gyrating on the dance floor. The lines for the bathroom stretched longer than usual. People were shoulder-to-shoulder, enjoying the music, having drinks, grabbing little pieces of pizza with their hands and sharing giant bowls of nachos with their friends.
No one gave a second thought to catching a possible deadly virus.
Who knew the “Good ole days” would be just a few months ago?
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.