I just got home from spending the day at the beach. It was pretty cool, mostly, but I had this really weird run-in with some guy. My wife and I were building a sandcastle, it wasn’t one of those professional ones you see beach artists working on for weeks at a time. But it wasn’t your average kid-with-a-bucket-and-pail sandcastle either. This was like semipro, if there were such a way of classifying sand sculptures.
We’d been working on it for maybe three or four hours, so you could see the general outline of where everything was going to go. There were several towers, a few turrets, all of your standard sandcastle fare. But we were just getting started on the detail work when this guy totally crashed right on top of it.
It was just like out of a movie. He was chasing a Frisbee in the air, it was just out of his reach, and as he dove to catch it, he landed exactly where I told you he landed, on the sandcastle. It was destroyed.
He didn’t notice at first. I mean, he did make his catch, so he was probably a little lost in his sense of accomplishment. There was definitely this five second moment after his body stopped moving, where the three of us were just sitting there, my wife and I not really sure how to react, him sticking his hand out of the sand, I guess to show off that, despite sacrificing himself for the play, he did it, he caught that Frisbee.
And then I got angry, not a rational type of anger, but just like a, “Come on man! What the fuck?” instinctual response. And he must have seen it coming, because he got really apologetic. “Oh, jeez, guys, I am so sorry about this. Holy shit, I can’t believe I just did that. I wasn’t looking where I was running to and … man, I hope you guys don’t think that I did that on purpose. My God, I am really, really sorry. Can I make it up to you?”
And what am I going to do? Get mad at this guy for ruining our sandcastle? Sure, I said it was semipro quality before, and even as I wrote that out, there was a voice inside my head saying, “Really Rob? Semipro quality? Don’t you think that’s a little generous?” But the competing narrative in my head, the voice that wrote semipro in the first place, it shot back, “Why, you’re saying it’s not that good? Get out of here, that castle was great. In fact, if I could have spent a whole weekend on the beach, entirely dedicating myself to sand sculpture, I think I might be able to broach that semipro-pro barrier.”
But now that I’m writing it out, I don’t think it was that good. If I’m being totally honest here, I mean, sure, it was big. But that was it. That was our sandcastle’s defining characteristic, its size. And so as this guy apologized, I wanted to be mad, but I didn’t want to be mad either, because I didn’t want to be that guy that made a huge scene over whatever it was that got destroyed. I started to think, maybe this guy did us a favor. It’s not like my wife was really that interested in sandcastles. It wasn’t something that we planned on, either. I’m wondering if she wasn’t a little annoyed at the whole activity. She just wanted a nice relaxing day at the beach, and it’s like as soon as we had our towels and umbrella set up, I immediately recruited her into this ridiculous, big activity.
“I’ll help fix it,” the guy offered.
To which I said, “Nah, that’s OK, I think we’re about done with building sandcastles.”
“No, come on, don’t say that. It was so big! Just let me help you, I can help you.”
And I looked toward my wife, I knew she probably wouldn’t want to, but maybe. But no, she gave me a look, I could tell she was nonverbally communicating with me that she didn’t feel like starting over, not with this random dude, not at all.
“Nah, that’s OK, I think we’re just going to relax for a little while.”
But this guy wouldn’t take a hint. He just started digging and building. “You’ll see,” he muttered to himself, “I can fix it.” It was like he was possessed. After a few minutes, I looked behind him, to see who had tossed him the Frisbee in the first place, but there was nobody there, nobody looking for him.
His digging could only be described as feverish, really, and we kept getting sprayed with sand as he scooped at the giant pile with his bare hands. “Sorry!” he’d call out. I turned to my wife and said, “Do you want to go move spots? Somewhere else?” And she just nodded, yes, I want to move spots.
So I had to roll everything up and walk everything over and reset everything. It took like another half an hour. And then when we left two hours later, we passed by our old spot. It was incredible. In just a couple hours, this guy had managed to build a masterpiece out of the ruins of whatever it was that we were on our way to building over there. He even somehow built a moat with actual water, something that I had originally suggested to my wife, but the idea wasn’t met with too much enthusiasm, and so I backed off.
I was so jealous. A crowd had gathered, people were taking pictures. I’m not saying that I went in on the sandcastle to get attention. You can’t go about life that way. But man, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have that fantasy running through my head. And now this guy had it. I tried to catch his attention as we walked toward the bus stop, “Hey man, looks like you really turned it around,” hoping that he’d acknowledge me, maybe give me a little shout out. But there was nothing. He looked up, considered me for maybe half a second, and then went back to his work. Damn. Right before we were just out of earshot, I could have sworn I heard the bystanders giving him a light round of mild applause.