Monday, April 5, 2010

Six Weeks of Spring Break


My husband and I went out this past Friday night and did something we haven’t done in a very long time. We spent more money—way more money—on liquor than we did on food. We braced ourselves for the tourist traffic that has flooded our neighborhood in recent weeks, called a few friends to join us, and enjoyed cocktails and dinner at the beach.

Here, on the west central coast of Florida, it’s high tourist season, also known as spring break. Spring break doesn’t designate a single week in this part of the country. In the Tampa Bay area, spring break lasts about six weeks. It includes every spring break of every family in every school in every city in the country. Perhaps other countries, too, but I don’t know if they have spring break elsewhere in the world. And every one of those families, haggard by another school year, makes its way to our beaches.

Life changes in many ways during spring break season. Breakfast out on the weekends is nearly impossible. The quaint, seaside hangouts that we enjoy ten and a half months of the year become overrun with tourists who snake out the door, throw food to the seagulls and park in our secret spots. Because we live on an island, we must paddle every weekend against the tide when we plan our comings and goings. That is to say, when the spring breakers from Omaha or Cincinnati are driving onto the island, toting coolers packed with Gatorade and Subway sandwiches and bottles of SPF 70 tucked in their beach bags, we are free to make our way to Home Depo or a high school ball game. They are coming, we are going. But we dare not return until the tide shifts and those tourists—always burned on the tips of their ears and the backs of their legs because no one remembers to sunscreen those spots—return to their rooms at the Holiday Inn. Then, we are coming and they are, at long last, going. This system temporarily fails every twenty minutes on the hour because the draw bridge goes up. How this influences the tide is always unpredictable.

None of this is to say we don’t care for our tourists from Dallas and Topeka. They are the lifeblood of most businesses in this area. They eat our seafood, drink our margaritas and enjoy our miniature golf. Luckily, we are blessed with family-style tourists. We are a G rated area—okay maybe PG13 along certain stretches of the beach. We don’t tend to draw the R rated college crowd. So yes, we are thankful for the migration that makes its way south during March and early April. We can eat our pancakes and drink our mimosas at home during these few weeks. But please, remember the tops of your ears and the backs of your legs, and never, under any circumstances, feed the seagulls. And like this last Friday night, when my husband and I spent more on Cabernet (me) and Michelob (him), than we did on Alfredo (me) and Blackened Chicken (him), we might set aside our regularly scheduled activities to join you once in a while.

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