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June 19, 2005

Birds, a Cane, the Beach and Lifeguards

Tom McLaughlin

Humor by Tom McLaughlin

They started gathering like the birds in the Alfred Hitchcock movie. First there was one; then two; and then one rode up on tri-bike. A fourth wandered in from the street. These were Ocean City lifeguards.

I had a relapse with this rare disease I contracted from somewhere and doctors have no idea for a cure. I managed to stumble into my doctor's office who immediately put me on infusions.

I asked him the ancient joke: "Will I be able to play the piano after this?" Being young he looked at me quizzically and I realized he had never heard it before. "Well, I couldn't play it before," was the punch line. He still looked at me as if the disease had progressed to my thought cells.

I had to go out and buy a cane. I certainly did not want a chrome and slate grey handled stick. I asked around and found a drug store on Market Street that sold ones decorated with butterflies, compass roses and other unique features. I chose the winged insects, but my girlfriend said it was too feminine. So, I purchased choice number two, the compass rose model as I thought it made me look more intellectual. My daughter said I was "one pimping dude" and all I needed was a hat with a feather to complete the ensemble.

I went to the beach to enjoy my life long passion of girl watching. I strolled onto the ocean front deck with my cane and a neighbor asked me what had happened. I told her about the problem as I was applying my sun tan lotion (SPF #30, Doc) and indicated I was heading to the surf. She told me I would never make it because my cane would sink into the sand.

Undaunted, I arranged my large towel around my neck, put the small sand chair over my shoulder and arranged a few magazines under my arm. I started down slowly but surely to the waters edge as fellow sun worshipers kept a wary eye on me with a few giving me the thumbs up. I really didn't think this was any big deal.

I arranged my chair, towel and magazines at a perfect bikini watching location and headed down to the surf. Here I made a few discoveries. First you stab the cane behind you when the wave comes in and then quickly switch to the front as the wave retreats. In between, I bent down and picked up some interesting shells, watched the porpoises and enjoyed my hobby. This was bliss to me.

Then, I noticed the gathering of the sea retrievers. I knew the one guard as she had been stationed there for the past three years attending college in the fall. We waved at each other as I was maneuvering to the strand line.

Then a second guard appeared and began a conversation with her, casually looking over his shoulder. The third one slowly approached me on his motorized tricycle and drove up to the guards stand.

I was oblivious to all of this as I became braver and braver and allowed a wave to wash up over my waist. My cane dance was working perfectly.

As the fourth guard came strolling in from the Jeep, I was aware of someone watching me. I turned and all four were looking straight at me - wondering when I would get slammed by a wave, hauled out to sea and they would have to make a surf rescue. I calmly moved back to my chair, opened my magazine and began to read with one eye while the other kept a look out for the ladies.

They watched me for a while and then slowly went back to their other duties. My fellow beach chums always waved and nodded. I did this for about four days and became a. regular fixture on the beach. I wonder if they agreed with my daughter that I was "one pimping dude?"

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