'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
BEACH VACATION DELIGHTS THE SENSES
We recently took our annual week-long pilgrimage to the seashore, and as usual, it was the perfect antidote for the preceding 51 weeks of stressed-out modern life. There’s something special about spending time by the ocean that calms and relaxes the nerves.
Getting away from daily frustrations, even for a little while, is very important. At the shore my house cannot mock me. (“Hey Bill, watch this, I’m gonna lose a couple more roof shingles!”) Nor can my lawn. (“Hey Bill, can you believe how fast those dandelions grow? You have to mow me again!”) At the shore, I’m away from the phone. (“Hey Bill, let me tell you about our exciting magazine subscription offer!”) And most enjoyable of all, I’m away from the stress of the office. (“Hey Bill, you ordered the wrong model number! The contractor wants to hit you with a $5,000 back-charge! He also wants to hit you in the mouth!”)
The ocean is relaxing because each of the five senses gets a much-needed break from the usual harsh sensations of the inland, urban environment. During a typical workday, my sense of sight is bombarded with traffic jams, garbage trucks, and speeding ambulances—and that’s just trying to get out of my driveway. When I begin my commute to the office, it gets much worse. However, at the beach, my sense of sight is treated to blue water, white sand, gently crashing waves, and gliding seagulls. (And that’s all I allow my sense of sight to gaze upon, dear, I swear. I never even noticed that yellow bikini with the white trim and the low-cut top and the thong bottom. Really.)
On workdays my sense of touch must endure the scraping of a razor blade on my face, the dragging of a brush through my hair, the constricting noose of a necktie, and the unyielding squeeze of leather wingtip shoes. While at the shore, my sense of touch gets to enjoy baggy shorts and T-shirts, a cool off-shore breeze blowing through my uncombed hair and across my unshaven face, and the waves splashing over my sandal-clad feet. (To maintain this pleasant sense of touch throughout the week, be sure to avoid three beach hazards: a bad sunburn, sand in the bathing suit, and the inevitable punch in the arm if you look at that yellow bikini.)
During the busy work schedule, my sense of taste never has time to relax and savor a meal. I’m forced to wolf down unhealthy junk food such as hot dogs, potato chips, candy bars, and Mountain Dew. But when I’m at the shore, things are different. My sense of taste is allowed to enjoy the culinary delights of hot dogs, potato chips, candy bars, and Mountain Dew. (OK, OK, I know, it’s the exact same stuff. But somehow at the shore on vacation, it just tastes better.)
My sense of hearing is relentlessly brutalized during a typical workday. On the way to work there are honking horns, screeching tires, wailing sirens, and that annoying guy on the radio who informs me that I’m stuck in traffic. Once at work, it’s a steady stream of ringing phones, angry customers, and frustrated curses at uncooperative computers. In contrast, the low and steady roar of the ocean surf is like Mother Nature’s valium. (It’s addictive, but that’s OK.) The soothing sound goes right to the central nervous system and calms down every nerve in my body.
City life constantly abuses my sense of smell. Typical aromas include overflowing Dumpsters, belching smokestacks, bus fumes, sewage treatment plants, and the unpleasant scent of anxiety perspiration (because my 12-hour deodorant usually quits after about 20 minutes on especially stressful days). On the other hand, the smell of salty ocean air is unlike any other. The joy of filling my nostrils with this clean, unique fragrance is alone worth the exorbitant vacation rental charges.
By far the best aspect of a beach vacation is its effect on the unofficial “sixth” sense: the sense of urgency. A vacation reminds me that every little thing is not, in fact, an emergency. The ocean helps me put life into perspective. And it gives me something to look forward to during the next 51 weeks.
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