I usually don’t take vacations. Every year, the HR lady calls down to the sunken storage closet I work out of and tells me that my two weeks of vacation time will expire unless I use them right away. I always let them disappear, I have nowhere to go anyway.
This time was different. My mom’s side of the family (40ish people) got two houses at Sandbridge in Virginia last week. Instead of working, like a productive member of society, I spent the week swimming in the ocean, walking on the beach, eating good food, drinking responsibly, watching the olympics, and playing card games with my many relatives.
It was great. Now, I want a beach house.
I didn’t get nearly enough reading done, and I’m not looking forward to the mountain of work waiting for me in the office, but overall, it was a great way to shake things up. I think that’s the point of vacations, not necessarily to relax, family trips can be more stressful than daily life, but just a change of pace. I’ll catch up with the workload and everything will be back to normal soon enough, so it’s always worth taking some time, and a few hundred dollars, to ride the waves, kick the sand, and re-connect with increasingly distant family members.
Tomorrow, most of my extended family members will drive down to the beach and stay in a very nice house for the week. I won’t be joining them because apparently I’m the only one who has to work for a living. But many moons ago, before I devolved into a responsible employee, I too went to the beach.
A storm had either just come through, or was on its way to destroy everything in its path. Strong gusts of wind and incessant rain spat from a slate grey sky. The beach was empty, apart from us. There weren’t any lifeguards, but early that morning someone had speared red flags into the sand. I did a few minutes of research and learned the following fun facts.
- Yellow Flag: medium hazard, don’t go in the water unless you need to prove a point
- Red Flag: high hazard, seriously, don’t go in the water
- Double Red Flag: water closed to public use, don’t think we won’t arrest you
Since it was only a single red flag, we waded out into the choppy seas. I was joined by two or three of my bolder cousins, one of whom was an amazing swimmer. We were pulled out quickly and our feet didn’t touch the ground again. Waves rose and fell in rapid succession, wind-whipped into a frenzy. After a few harrowing minutes, it stopped being fun and started to get challenging. Treading water in the violent ocean got wearisome, so we went back to shore. (For the record, I wasn’t the one who said we should get out.)
But Poseidon wasn’t going to let us go that easily. We’d taunted his power after being warned that the ocean was no joke, one last inconvenience was in store. We couldn’t get back to the beach. Try as we might, the waves pulled us out faster than we could swim toward solid ground. I’m not sure how things worked out, perhaps it was divine intervention, but sooner or later we all shivered together on the wet sand, covered in seaweed and salt water. We chuckled desperately, but our panicked eyes said “Never again.”
We looked around and realized that in about 15 minutes the current had pulled us nearly a half-mile down the beach. So we trudged along, relieved that no one had died, and proud of being foolish enough to swim the high seas under red flag conditions.