I first started writing this story with a lengthy intro—describing how Long Beach Island is so lovely and wonderful, how the food is delicious, how the beer is cold, how the beautiful beaches are sandy, how blah, blah, blah. But chances are if you’ve spent any amount of time on LBI, you already know these things to be true.
So then I decided, screw it— I’ll just jump right in. Have you ever walked into a business you love on LBI and had a perfectly pleasant interaction with the staff? Me too. Have you ever walked into a business you love and the staff was a bit rude (most likely because they think you’re a tourist and they would kindly like you to vacate the Island already)? Yeah, me too. Confession: I’m tired of having to prove that I’m a “local” in order to be treated a little nicer while talking to another human. It doesn’t happen every day, but just enough. This is the phenomenon that I like to call “The Weird Local Behavior.” Now before you get defensive—let’s take a look at the evidence.
Exhibit A: Labor Day Weekend. My friend Danielle, who lives just outside of Philly, and I have a tradition of her spending holiday weekends with me during the summer. I enjoy introducing her to my favorite restaurants and nightlife on the Island. One Labor Day weekend a bouncer shouted to everyone “BYEEEE! It’s the last weekend! You guys can all go home now! Can’t wait for you all to go home!” To which I felt obligated to defend myself with, “I live here! All year long!” It wasn’t necessary, but I chimed back for good measure. I felt embarrassed that he said that in front of Danielle.
Exhibit B: Two summers ago, I went to one of my favorite happy hour spots with my co-worker, roommate, and Danielle from Exhibit A. The waitress was less than pleasant right off the bat. When I requested the happy hour menu, she insisted that they didn’t have one. So I squeezed my way through the crowded restaurant to get one from the bar instead. Maybe she was just having a bad day. But her attitude suddenly improved significantly after she checked our ID’s when we ordered our beers— she could read on our licenses where we lived. Coincidence? Perhaps, but probably not.
Exhibit C: A few summers ago I went out to eat with my friend, my brother and his friend at a popular spot in Beach Haven. We were going out to eat on a day during prime summer months. While checking in on our table, the waiter very casually said to us, “I can’t wait for all you guys to just go home.” It was an unprompted and rude comment that he said with such ease that it stuck with me. I replied, “I live in Surf City. All the time. So I guess you’ll still see me.” I still see him.
This is what it boils down to—our community relies on regional tourism. There are no two ways about it. Visitors need the beaches we get to call home for their sanity, as much as we need their dollars in order to continue to call this place “home.” Tourism is our livelihood; our lives. Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve all had our fair share of less-than-ideal interactions with our visitors (one time a woman asked me where I live. I replied, “Surf City”. She replied, “Oh, do you live in Surf City Hotel?” Nope. Weird. Moving on.)
This isn’t a holier-than-thou critique, but rather an observation. These aforementioned interactions are not only strange to me but simply feel icky. Given the current state of political affairs, I’m getting really tired of the “Us vs. Them”: “Local vs. Tourist,” “Mainland vs. Island,” “North End vs. South End,” and “Immigrant vs. Citizen”attitudes. “I was born here and you weren’t”— where does it stop? Where do silly rivalry end and unpleasant entitlement begin? I believe somewhere along the way it ends up bleeding into a larger systematic pool of claim, power, and territory. I think it changes who we are, how we behave, and how others perceive us. But in reality, this community is comprised of some of the most generous, most supportive, most compassionate, and most forward-thinking people on the planet.
My examples certainly aren’t enough to keep me away from my favorite spots where a couple of rude things were said. But they are enough where I think maybe we could all just be a little kinder to each other. We need to be kinder regardless of where we’re from, where we’ve been, how much money we do or don’t have, and so on.
Honestly, I think life is too short for that crappy behavior. Together we can make a tiny difference in making people feel human again.
Your (possibly) sassy neighbor