Returning to the Scene of the Crime

So when The Curmudgeon last vacationed in Brigantine Beach, New Jersey he had a close encounter with the law and found himself on the beach surrounded by four police cars and sitting just inches from the business end of a police officer’s service revolver.  It all happened because The Curmudgeon dared question why he should buy a beach tag – which he brandished throughout the encounter – when it was so clear that the beach tag patrol had no intention of enforcing the beach tag requirement.

So earlier this month The Curmudgeon returned to the scene of the crime, hoping he would not be compelled to make the dreaded perp walk before his two weeks at the beach ended.

And a year later, he can report that some things have changed in Brigantine.

And some have not.

One change, which The Curmudgeon suspects he helped inspire, is that early in the beach season, the town tried something new:  it stationed people at beach entrances to check arriving sun-worshippers for tags and to sell tags to those who lacked them.

And it would be inelegant to point out that the seashore version of hall monitors were all senior citizens who, if pressed on the subject, probably could have done little more than hurl their false teeth at tag-evaders.

Another change, which The Curmudgeon also suspects he helped inspire, is that after visiting Brigantine Beach for twenty-three years, the town for the first time was employing some male beach tag girls.  In fact, during his two weeks in town, The Curmudgeon only once saw a beach tag girl team that did not include a male beach tag girl.

Unfortunately, while Brigantine, like The Curmudgeon’s beloved Phillies, now has some new faces in the lineup, it looks like it’s producing the same old results – also, come to think of it, just like The Curmudgeon’s beloved Phillies.  The beach tag girls still don’t do a whole lot to enforce the beach tag requirement.  Oh, they still go up to people and ask to see their tags, but when told “I left it at the house” – the adult version of “the dog ate my homework” – they still just shrug and go their merry way.

Of course, when The Curmudgeon observed this he tempted fate and was unable, once again, to hold his tongue (did the gun not scare him off?  Would he never learn?  Or is he just that stupid?).  After observing one instance of indifference to the lack of a beach tag, he asked one of the beach tag girls – a male beach tag girl – about what he had just seen.

“Oh, they said they left their tags in their condo.  We’ll be back in about an hour to check.”

Well, it was a beach, there’s not a whole lot to do but sit, so The Curmudgeon decided he would wait.  After all, seeing is believing, right?

So an hour passed.

And then two hours.

And then three.

No movement by the miscreants to retrieve their alleged beach tags.  No return by the two beach tag girls and the male beach tag girl.

Some things never change.

But during the course of his two weeks in Brigantine – which, to the uninitiated, is the first beach town directly north of Atlantic City (you can see the casino-hotels from the beach) – The Curmudgeon did notice some changes.

Brigantine has always been unfriendly to day-trippers.  Parking is limited, and the only bathroom facilities are porta-potties, and in recent years the town has reduced the number of porta-potties it sets up for the summer.  The beach isn’t nearly as well-groomed as it has been in the past, and the main drag through town, which used to be policed pretty carefully to discourage speeding, now is an every-man-for-himself zone.  The Curmudgeon generally abides by speed limits, and while driving through Brigantine he regularly found other drivers leaving him in the dust.  The town appears to have abandoned enforcing existing rules governing where you can fish on the beach, where you can fly a kite on the beach, and whether you can bring dogs onto the beach (in theory, you can’t during the summer, but take a walk on the beach after seven p.m. and see for yourself).  Worst of all, it appears to the naked eye that there are fewer lifeguard stands than in the past, and therefore greater distances between protected beaches.  Meanwhile, the smallest part of the beach for all of the twenty-three years The Curmudgeon has visited the town is now huge – courtesy of the federal government, one of the locals explained.

Maybe that’s the city fathers’ master plan:  suck all of the federal aid they can out of the government and keep the benefits for themselves by making the town more inhospitable than ever to the outsiders who are footing the bill.

And maybe it’s time for The Curmudgeon to find another beach town that’s less hostile to visitors who come to spend thousands of dollars while on vacation.


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  • […] is pleased to report that he had no run-ins with the Brigantine Beach patrol or police department this year. In fact, during his entire two weeks there he was asked to show his beach tag only once even […]

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