People are different now, and it has a lot to do with the varying value system learned through life. Over the last several summers, there have been a lot of private discussions about the changing socio-economic profile of Ocean City visitors. It’s concerning to many business owners, residents and secondary homeowners.
I have been spending a lot of time in Ocean City this summer, as I do each season, and it’s impossible not to observe this because it’s such a melting pot, featuring people from all walks of life and in various stages of their lives. What’s impossible is concluding whether it’s just indicative of the changing cultural times or truly an issue unique to Ocean City that can be linked to geographic marketing changes.
Rather than simply looking at the color of one’s skin or their style of clothes, I think watching how people interact with each other and observing their mannerisms and speech reveal more about the topic that is on the minds of many around these parts.
In Ocean City, there have always been families from a variety of socio-economic profiles mixing in with revelers who simply want to enjoy themselves at any cost. To some, that’s part of this beach town’s charm and it’s the same as it’s always been, but to others the differences are more extreme now than it was in the past and they point to the police blotter pages and the more serious crimes committed these days as evidence.
At times, especially in June, there can be unfortunate situations that arise in Ocean City because of bad decisions and brute reactions (see this week’s beating of a town bus driver as an example), but there can also be reminders that there are good-hearted and well-intentioned young people as well coming to Ocean City. It’s a cliché these days, but it truly is the small percentage of trouble makers that cause heartburn for local people.
I will share two stories to illustrate the point. Both come from the beach with two different scenarios.
The disturbing one comes first. A group of high school or college kids were on the beach acting like a bunch of idiots, using foul language, drinking something that made them more boisterous and playing loud and offensive music. Rather than start any issues, because I read too much about what happens when encounters go wrong, my group just moved far away from them because we could see where the day was headed and we wanted no part of their brand of trouble.
Unfortunately, a nearby father didn’t do the same. He refused to move his family to another location on the beach and had an ongoing battle of wills and words with the group. I don’t know all the details of what transpired throughout the day because we relocated early. However, when the group wrapped up its day, I was able to see it left behind numerous pizza boxes, cups, plates, napkins and other debris. It was too much for the father, who appeared to have an Armed Forces background based on his tattoos, to let go apparently because he made some comments to them, resulting in three of the guys surrounding him in an intimidating fashion. From my vantage point, which was in the ocean with my kids, I could see it was a situation teetering on getting out of control. His wife and kids were nearby watching their family patriarch. Fortunately, some of the women in the group encouraged the young guys to move on and they did while pointing their fingers upward and shouting who knows what. For what it’s worth, the litter was left behind.
Now to the positive experience I observed. An elderly woman lost her footing on the beach and was having trouble getting back on her feet. Several men and women — again in their late-teen to early 20s range — rushed quickly to her aid and provided her the stability she needed to get back up. They then escorted her back to her chair. She was embarrassed but fine. The group ended up talking with her for some time, and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves. From where I was, I could overhear the men and women joking about their families, where they went to school and their summer plans to save as much money as they could before returning to school in the fall.
It was a simple deed that most of us would do without giving it any thought, but mentality shifts seem to be proving it’s not the norm and should not be taken for granted any longer. That’s a shame.