Let me take a break from all the facts and figures and tell you one thing I love about the beach. It has nothing to do with the sand or the waves. It has nothing to do with the salty air or the crisping of my skin; instead, it has everything to do with the people.
Insert Neal and Phyllis.
As we pulled into our beachfront duplex on the narrow strip of Emerald Isle this week, I was greeted by an aged mustache, paired with a toothy grin and a strong (I'm talkin' straaaaawng y'all) country accent.
"I guess y'aller our neighbors - you look like friendly enough folks." He said.
"We'll try and live up to that initial impression - even though I'm not sure what we did to deserve it. I'm sure you'll let us know if things get too rambunctious for you?" I replied.
"We ain't got no problem with ram-bunction - teerust me," his enormous smile grew even bigger, to the point that I thought the corners of his mouth might poke him in the eyes, "you see, I can be friends with anybody - unless you're married to me and you ain't my type - but even then tolerance is the lowest limbo bar."
As I stared blankly trying to figure out what that meant, a petite, middle-aged woman poked her head out from around the other side of the van.
"Lord knows you were lucky to find someone to marry you at all. Not everyone's as attracted to robust waistlines and hairy backs as I am!"
Neal and Phyllis.
What's great about the beach is that it is one of the few places that you can simultaneously know everything about a person and nothing about a person. The beach presents a unique opportunity to get to know people without their clothes on. Instead of being defined by the stuff they own or the places they work, first impressions are more subject to face-to-face interactions and family dynamics (and perhaps a tattoo or two).