By Tim Hayes

The vacation, years in the planning, had begun.  Our entire family together again at the New Jersey shore.  A rented house that exceeded our fondest hopes, the kids – two out of college, one half-way through, coming in from different cities – all gathered in the same place for a few days of fun and the creation of fresh memories.

We gathered our coolers, beach chairs, towels, and assorted effluvia, then made the block-and-a-half shuffle up to the boardwalk then down onto the beach.  Rented umbrellas awaited us at our predetermined spot, and we parked there for a peaceful, carefree, happy family day in the sun, sand, and surf.

Then the Rastafarians arrived.

A group of eight vacationers, all in their mid- to late-20s, covered in tattoos, dreadlocks on some of the guys and girls, full of themselves to overflowing, sauntered up to a spot about 20 feet from our encampment.  The beach had become a little crowded on this July Fourth holiday, so I didn’t give our new neighbors much thought.

A couple of things did catch my eye, though.  One girl had a tattoo of a traffic light on her left arm, extending from her shoulder nearly to her elbow.  The green light was on.  Okay, two questions:  1) A traffic light?  Really?  Who gets a giant traffic light inked onto their arm, permanently and forever?  And 2) Why is the green light on?

After about 10 minutes, the answer to Question 2 started to come into better focus.  It looked like the green light was always on with this particular girl, at least from where I could see, if you get my drift.

Then the group, en masse, tore away any vestige of adhering to social mores, and lit up cigarettes.  Rude?  Sure.  Inconsiderate?  You bet.  Illegal?  On all New Jersey beaches, starting this year, yes sir.  Did any of these considerations ever get considered, even fleetingly, by this bunch?

Aw, hell no.

And guess who sat directly downwind?  Yup.  The Hayes’s.  Who cannot stand or stomach cigarette smoke.

But, trying to avoid a confrontation on a crowded holiday beach, and wanting to be as patient and accepting as possible of other people’s idiosyncrasies, nothing got said.

“Let them get this out of their systems,” I thought to myself.  “Maybe this will be the end of it.”

Aw, hell no.

Next, one of the dreadlocked Rastafarians pulled out his vape kit, issuing enormous clouds of scented exhalations that, once again, cascaded over us, through our hair, into our swimsuits and cover-ups.  The group then passed the kit around, enveloping us in what must have looked from a distance like heavy early-morning fog.

I stared at these ignoramuses, people old enough to know better, becoming angrier and angrier.  Surely, they would go down to the water now and give us a break from all this airborne pollution.

Aw, hell no.

The vape kit went away, followed almost immediately by something new.  Someone in our party said, “What is that?  It smells like a skunk!”  To which another family member said, “That’s not a skunk – that’s weed.”  Yes, friends, our newest bestest beach buddies had graduated to passing around a joint.  Unbelievable.

After two of the males decided to stand up and begin wrestling – not WWE-style, but actual full-throttle wrestling, complete with serious headlocks, throwing each other on the ground, kicking up clouds of sand that started to really annoy people all around them, not just us – I’d reached my limit of tolerance.

We paid a lot of money to take this vacation, and to gain access to this beach.  We, along with the hundreds, probably thousands, of other vacationers somehow followed all the rules, showing mutual respect and goodwill in this shared space.  But these a-holes had finally gone too far.

“I’m going over to tell those guys,” I announced, loud enough to hear, emerging from under the canvas umbrella, and began marching back toward the boardwalk.

By the time I had returned, with two men in tow beside me, the Rastafarians had stood up and began packing all of their gear in preparation for a hasty retreat.  Little did they realize that the two guys with me were in charge of the rented umbrellas, and were about to pull them up and set them in a new spot on the beach – anything to help us get away from the hell-raisers we had come to dislike so very, very much.

They thought I had gone to drag the cops onto the beach for a drug bust.  Stoner idiots.  Serves ‘em right.  Think they’ll set up a few feet from us again, next time?

Aw, hell no.  Haven’t you heard?  I’m the accidental Surf Narc of this stretch of coastline.

Copyright 2016 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting