Shorebilly's Swill: The Quiet Season
The season is slowly winding down as the weather quickly turns. This is the time of year that has changed dramatically over my tenure living in Ocean City, MD. When I first moved here, the town was essentially fully functional from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The unwritten, unspoken rule was that the last person across the bridge on Labor Day Monday was to turn out the lights. By Tuesday morning of that week, it was officially considered ‘the off season.’ This was when you hoped desperately that you had made enough in the summer to carry you for quite awhile. If you were smart, (which I never was), you played the role of the ant and not the grasshopper through the summer and saved a bit. If you didn’t have one of the small handful of decent year-round jobs and a significant other, you were about to spend the next 7 or 8 months not ruling out drinking hemlock.
The mid September, into November season was the time of year when we locals would collectively breathe a sigh of relief and lick our wounds. We would begin the long and arduous task of nursing our knees, backs, and livers back to health. We had now lost a substantial amount of our livelihood, but we had regained our peace of mind. It seemed like a reasonable trade off. This was the time when we might even begin planning our own family vacations for some time in January or February. Those of us who had the means, and no baggage to speak of got the hell out of town at the first opportunity. This was, The Quiet Season.
Gone forever are those days, and this time of year is now anything BUT quiet. Over time, this season has morphed into something completely different. What was once the “off season” became the “quiet season.” Which then in turn became the “second season.” Which then transformed into the “shoulder season.” And now, it’s become a completely different animal. I now refer to this time of year as the “noisy season”. This is now the time of year when the various groups and subcultures who are in town on a given weekend can routinely raise the decibel level to that of a rock concert with their toys and behaviors.
Several things have happened to this area to initiate the transformation, and draw these various groups to our shores in the fall. One is the amount of lodging and convention accommodations that we now have. Another reason is that we now have literally dozens of golf courses within a twenty-minute drive of Ocean City. That paired with a tanking economy and ever rising gas prices has brought many of our friends from the north to swing their clubs here rather than migrate all the way to Myrtle Beach or the Outer Banks. Another reason is that all of the various subcultures plan their vacations around those with similar vehicles can now keep in touch via the Internet and attack our streets in droves. Groups who once arrived by the hundreds are now bringing their two or four wheeled armadas by the thousands. We’ve also become a Mecca for fall brides to come with a couple dozen of their obnoxious friends to spend that one last weekend of freedom before spending the next several years slowly draining the life out of their unsuspecting new husbands.
I’ll now break down each of these groups individually and tell you how they each contribute to the “noisy season” from the view-point of a local bartender:
First came the bikers.
Let me just say that aside from the unwelcome assault on our ear drums emitting from the tail pipes of their two-wheeled metal ponies, I have nothing negative to say about this group. They come by the tens of thousands now, and you can start hearing them from about the time they come through Easton. Once they’ve all arrived, don’t bother trying to listen to the radio on your way to work, or engage in a conversation through your blue tooth device. Because windows up or not, it’s futile. The volume is deafening for the next several days. I don’t mind these folks though, because once they’re here, they actually spend some money. We like that. It’s the ultimate, “don’t judge a book by its cover” weekend. They come in looking the part to the hilt with leather vests, chaps, bandana covered heads, Harley t-shirts, boots, and the whole works. Many of them masking the fact that five days a week they’re doctors, lawyers, CEOs, engineers, etc. It’s like Halloween for grownups. Once here, they’re polite, cordial, generous, and not afraid to spend money or have a good time. They’re loud as hell, but for the most part, off the streets by a reasonable hour. If it weren’t for the potential for permanent hearing loss, I’d welcome them once a month.
The hoards of bachelorette parties.
As diverse and unique as they each think they are, basically they are all the same. It’s generally groups of 8 to 25 girls cutting loose for the weekend. More often than not, all the members of the group are clad in similar attire. The hapless bride-to-be usually wears a sash and a veil with a cheap t-shirt that says bride (as if we couldn’t figure it out). While the rest of the group wear t-shirts with some clever phrase emblazoned upon it like “team Lucy” or something. They always seem to have a plethora of props and gadgets with them. Like straws in the shape of miniature male reproductive apparatus. They’ll all first sit down for dinner and of course ask for 16 separate checks each of which will be paid with a credit card that if we’re really lucky, will have a tip of exactly 15% attached to it. One girl will spend most of the evening on the phone either reassuring her psycho jealous, insecure boyfriend that he has nothing to worry about, or explaining to her incompetent husband how to care for his own children while Mommy is away. Two or three will look miserable the entire time and take a break from texting or checking their Facebook status only long enough to bitch about not being able to afford this, or not being in another bar, forgetting that this weekend is not about them. One girl will drink substantially more than the rest and wind up crying and being a burden to others. They’ll collectively, routinely chant and scream, completely disregarding other people dining around them. And throughout the evening, they’ll try to get guys who have no chance with any of them to pay for their drinks.
Volkswagon/ Audi people.
I’m increasingly astonished by how large this group has gotten and from how far away they’re willing to travel. I don’t mean to stereotype all of them, but in general it’s a massive group of over-privileged teen and twenty something’s who have immersed their entire existence into these little German made fart cars. The time and money they invest to get their vehicles to sound like a balloon that’s been blown up to capacity by a children’s party clown and then accidently released before a knot could be tied causing it to fly around the room, amazes me. They literally buzz in by the thousands never more than two to a car with clever little license plates that read things like I LIKE BUTTS, and such. Very witty. It’s usually groups of about 7 or 8 young men and the one who’s lucky enough to actually have a girlfriend brought her along. He was fortunate enough to find an insecure chick, really pissed at her father. They spend the weekend either standing in a parking lot with the hood up, or washing their cars more often than I void the contents of my bladder. If they do happen to come into the bar, they remind us what it’s like to begin every single transaction with the words: “how much is….”. They won’t fit more than two in a car, but they’ll squeeze 15 into a condo. I couldn’t believe how many Ohio IDs I checked that weekend. It was as if they shut the entire state down, forced everyone into V-Dubs, and shipped them off to Maryland for a few days. At least Canadians have the decency to tell me their life story before leaving me 5%. It’s difficult for me to not spend that weekend wishing that we had more speed bumps and potholes in town.
Noise polluting, 4-wheeled, street marauders; aka Cruisers, or Hot Rodders.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy good old fashioned American made steel and muscle just as much as the next guy, but I’m damned sure not going to plan my annual vacation around folks with similar vehicles. Hell, I don’t always plan my vacation around people who share my last name. This is the loudest, and most interesting group of all. They parade in by the thousands with a deafening roar and exhaust fumes billowing through the air. They’ll spend the next few days lining the curbs along the streets with video cameras on tripods filming other people’s cars. Perhaps I’m not quite scarlet enough around the throat to understand this ritual. You can tell the seasoned veteran attendees –they’ve already packed and brought from home their lawn chairs, Styrofoam coolers (which they’ve already stocked with beer in a state with no sales tax), and blankets. These are all the staple supplies needed to spend 14 hours sitting on the side of a road in October filming other people’s cars. If they’ve remembered to bring these items from home, then they can get through the weekend spending practically no money at all while they’re here. Your only hope is that when they come in from the curb to use your restroom that they make a purchase. It’s a long shot though. It’s not uncommon on this weekend that the mere act of a streetlight out front turning green can cause me to pee myself just a little bit.
Being a person who really enjoys and appreciates ironies, I’m always reminded this weekend of two stories from my past. The first is the time I was home alone one night my second summer in town and heard a knock at the door. It was a police officer. I had been watching TV and running the vacuum with the windows open. Evidently, one of my neighbors could hear this and called the proper authorities. The officer was disappointed to not find several other people there partying but he issued me a noise ordinance citation nonetheless. I had to go to court and pay a fine for simply taking advantage of my roommates being out to get some housekeeping done. Now, many years later I can stand at work and hear a Chevelle approaching from Salisbury. The second story is the time I got pulled over in town. I drove an ’89 Toyota Tercel for about 15 years. It had the horsepower of a weed whacker. At one point, my muffler had a hole in it that made the car kind of loud. I was stopped by police and issued a repair order. Pretty ironic, huh?
A good friend of mine coined a phrase many years ago describing the clientele in town this time of year. He said September and October at the beach brought “newly weds, and nearly deads”. I wish I could call that one my own but I have to give credit where it is due. Well times have changed. This is now the noisy season. I guess aging bargain hunters, and recently hitched who came here seeking peace, quiet, and romance will have to either relocate to another beach town, or come at another time.
I ran out of room, so the groups of golfers get a free pass, but I wrote an homage to them about this time last year, so you can read that here. Thanks for playing along everyone. And thanks to all the groups I just described. I poke good-natured fun, but we do welcome you and are happy to have you here.
Until next week,
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