Wes and I managed to get away a couple weeks ago because we were both getting a little crispy around the edges. We drove to a beach town on the Olympic peninsula and hung out in a little rented cottage.
The super great thing about this was that there was nothing to do except walk on the beach, ride our bikes, read books and watch Netflix at night. We loved it. I especially loved taking very long beach walks. Wes’s left knee would suddenly go on strike, so several times I walked alone. And it was on a very long beach walk that I ran into a pack of teenagers. I usually love all that youthful exuberance and horsing around but my delight turned into distress when I saw what they were doing.
There were four of them, two boys and two girls and a dachshund. They didn’t seem to be coupled in any way. They were gathered around one of those signs you see on Washington beaches that read, “Motor Vehicles Prohibited April 15th—Labor Day.” One of the boys shook the sign with all his might, really trying to dislodge it and bring it down. The two girls and the other boy were all screaming and laughing and egging him on.
I hate this kind of stuff—destruction of property for no good reason. I just wanted to make them stop. As I got closer my heart started to pound. What could I say? “Hey, you kids! Knock it off!” One—or all—of them would probably just laugh and flip me off. The closer I got the more agitated I felt. I thought for sure that sign was going to come down. And they were screaming and laughing louder and louder.
How could I make them STOP?
And then it hit me. I reached into my pocket and took out my cell phone. The second they saw I was taking their picture they stopped, turned their backs to me and walked away. Even the dachshund left although he did look over his shoulder at me.
It was like a dream! I was a fairy godmother waving a magic wand. Poof! They have stopped. I was Obi Wan using the Jedi Mind Trick: “This is not the sign you’re looking for.” I was Jesus: “Go and sin no more.” Well, okay, maybe not Jesus but it felt pretty miraculous.
I walked on feeling like the Good Sign Samaritan. My heart rate returned to normal. I breathed in the cool ocean air feeling healthy, strong, grateful and blessed. I pondered why that teenage boy was trying to bring that sign down. Impress the girls? Release pent up energy? A surge of testosterone? Did the other boy dare him? Then I looked at my watch and realized I had been walking over an hour.
I turned around and now the wind was at my back which somehow blew all the thoughts of the kids right out of my head. Instead I found myself pondering chicken breasts and how I should cook them tonight. Caper sauce? Spicy rub? Cut up and stir fry? I was lost in a sea of soy sauce and garlic when I heard it. Shrieks. Laughter.
I looked down the beach and there they were again. The four kids, the dachshund but this time a young woman who looked like an adult. She had on a bucket hat and huge aviator sunglasses.
They looked up, saw me and froze. I made a decision. I wanted to talk to them, to say something but I didn’t want to nag, bi**h or scold. My friend Trudy used to be a realtor. She told me that when you’re trying to get someone to buy a house, “You must sell them the benefits. Sell the benefits!” I thought about this is light of what I wanted to say.
Immediately my heart started pounding again and I started sweating—really sweating. I’ve done a lot of public speaking but never in my life have I been so nervous. My armpits were like leaky bathroom faucets. It’s one thing to take a photo and another to actually talk to them.
As soon as they saw me coming toward them they turned away. The lady in the bucket hat immediately put the dachshund on a leash even though I signaled that it was okay.
I was not very smooth about this because I thought I should take off my sunglasses but the strap got caught on my ear and I had to take off my hat and the wind blew my hair in my face right over my eyes. The kids looked stricken.
I finally got the glasses off, put my hat back on, took a deep breath and said slowly, “I just wanted to say that you all have so much energy and strength and power. Just think what you could do to make the world a better place.” The curly haired kid who was shaking the sign so hard, actually closed his eyes and nodded. I was amazed they were all paying attention and not rolling their eyes or giving one another looks. “Just take that in. That’s all I want to say.”
The woman in the aviator glasses looked at me and very quietly, almost in a whisper said, “Thank you.” It wasn’t snotty or sarcastic. I couldn’t see her eyes, but I could see her mouth and she gave me a small smile. The dachshund was surprisingly silent. Then I walked away.
I don’t know if she knew what they’d been doing. I don’t know if they told her. I didn’t look back.
When I got back to the house I stood before Wes with my arms out like a scarecrow. “Wow! Did you go running?” he asked. Under my arms were sweat stains the size of dinner plates.
“No,” I said. “I was out selling the benefits.” And just for the record, we went with the stir fry.