The Last Word

Don’t forget the sun-and-sun ‘essentials’ for your next beach tripThe Beach-Trip ChecklistCan’t Forget the Sun-and-Sand ‘Essentials’

By Richard W. O’Donnell

There was a time when Mom would slap together a few peanut butter sandwiches, grab an armful of threadbare towels and head for the beach with all of her children – on foot, of course.

Not anymore.

Nowadays, a typical family expedition to the beach in an SUV, van or pickup truck is better equipped than an African safari bound for a six-month stay in uncharted orangutan country.

First off, there are two types of suntan lotions. One is applied immediately before leaving home and is supposed to provide family members with that rugged, burned-to-a-crisp look when they strut out on the beach. The second lotion is applied at the beach and is supposed to prevent family members from getting burned to a crisp when they strut out on the beach. Modern males have learned that the ability to swim no longer is needed to impress young women when at the beach. The important thing is to look as though you know how to swim. Factories across the nation are turning out all types of paraphernalia for non-swimmers who want to resemble Tom Cruise as they strut along the sand.

Rare indeed is the female who would not be impressed by the sight of a young swain wearing rubber fins on his feet, a glass facemask and an air tank on his back, as well as the old reliable water wings. Surfboards, water skis and rubber rafts also are available, but should not be used unless you know what you are doing.

No family worth its salt would even bother driving to the beach these days without the bare essentials. These fundamentals include sunglasses, beach hats, two or three blankets, a dozen of the best towels, a couple of chaise longues, sunscreen, bug spray, comic books for the children, spare underwear, spare outer garb, spare change, the Harvard Classics for the parents, beach shoes, spare stockings, bathing caps, ear plugs, a sun shield for the nose, and something by Stephen King – in the event that the Harvard Classics get boring.

Also, a thermos jug loaded with hot coffee or tea, a portable bed, a thermos jug loaded with fruit juice or milk, a bar of soap, a bottle of wine, a six-pack of beer, a bag of sandwiches, a portable refrigerator loaded with lunch, plastic knives, forks and spoons, napkins, paper plates and cups, and a spare dish for the family dog.

And let’s not forget a portable radio, a portable TV set, the TV section of the local newspaper, a portable MP3 player for the teenagers, several Bach, Brahms and Beethoven CDs, as well as the latest Top 10 country or rock album, a king-size umbrella, bathing suits, bathing robes, an autographed photo of Esther Williams, a portable barbecue grill, a few pounds of hamburger and hot dogs, rolls, a bag of charcoal, mustard, ketchup, some charcoal lighter fluid, a book of matches, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit.

Then there is a nail file, chewing gum, spare diapers, baby oil and powder, a plastic bag for wet towels, binoculars for Dad’s girl-watching, a spare set of keys, a deck of playing cards, a book called “How To Swim in Ten Easy Lessons,” reading glasses and, last but not least, the neighbor’s pet cat, which was packed into the SUV, van or truck by mistake.

All of which proves that life at the beach certainly has changed in recent years.

Come to think of it, we may be raising a generation of non-swimmers. The kids spend so much time helping Dad load and unload the camper, they seldom have time enough to go swimming.

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