A sense of entitlement among people is nothing new, but this summer there does appear to be something different with visitors. It’s impossible to discuss current events in Ocean City without generalizing. There are without questions many visitors who are respectful people and live under the golden rule of treating others as you wish to be treated.
With that disclaimer made, many people seem to be on edge more than ever this summer. While I was at the grocery store one night this week, I watched a guy go out of his way to advise a stranger to not buy wood from grocery store. “You going to Assateague?,” the guy asked the other man, who replied, “yes having a bonfire.” The man advised, “don’t pay for wood here when you can just take the wood down the street using the honor system. We steal it all the time and nobody ever knows.” Another incident was from a downtown restaurant involving Pennsylvania couple refusing to wear their masks and the operator asking them to leave. Unnecessary foul language used and insults were hurled on video.
It was this degradation of society that was addressed at City Hall this week. Local businesses are repeatedly finding themselves being verbally assaulted and ridiculed by customers not willing to abide by mandated safety requirements. They don’t want to wear masks inside. They want a table for 10 though the law clearly states six max. They will lie and say they are all related to try and get around the requirement. Some businesses earlier this month heard so much hate they decided to close early or not open at all.
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones and Mayor Rick Meehan addressed the changing landscape this week. Jones said, “The pent-up demand is really causing a strain on relations. Businesses are seeing a public totally over COVID and not wanting to follow any of the rules. There are business employees who starting to feel their own safety is at stake, so there’s a little bit of that going on.” Meehan added, “We’re hearing a lot of our visitors are over COVID. They’re just happy to be out and about and I realize sometimes that puts pressure on our businesses, our restaurants and bars and other establishments, that are working very hard to adhere to the guidelines. I know that’s very difficult. Sometimes, it’s the customers you have issues with.”
It’s unprecedented times. Casual conversations I have with business owners reveal everything. They are stressed and tired, working harder than ever in the hopes of getting through the summer with enough money to make it through the slower seasons. Every day and night of service matters. It seems to me the visitors sense this scenario and feel they have the power. They feel the businesses need them more than they need the goods the business is selling. Therefore, the treatment is insulting when an expectation or standard is not met by their perception.
One more example to prove the point. A Boardwalk restaurant had a patron come to the bar and order a carryout drink to go. Abiding by the rules of the day the bartender made the drink and put a lid on it. On the credit card receipt the customer took the time to write “LID” on the tip line, referring to the drink lid left behind by the unruly customer. When the customer returned to the same bartender 20 minutes later, he was denied service. Kudos to the bartender. In this day, it’s a brave move.
Hang in there everyone. Let’s make the best of this summer, but remember having pride and respect for yourself will last a lot longer than a few bucks here and there.
Ten days have come and gone since the Ocean City Mayor and Council talked tough about June crime. At the virtual council meeting on June 16, there was talk of a workshop, improved leadership and promises to help police. It seems clear this week nothing has been done in favor of believing the bad elements are gone from Ocean City because it’s been generally quieter lately.
Though the scene in Ocean City has improved, it’s important to note major incidents have occurred. For instance, there was the broad daylight carjacking last Sunday. There was also a shooting of another man. The suspect has somehow only been charged with first-degree assault and other lesser charges for shooting a gun four times at someone in a car. In fact, the reality is there were many serious incidents last weekend (see this week’s Cops and Courts section for details), but gone does appear to be the intimidating large groups who clearly were in town to fight, verbally abuse and raise hell.
Part of the council’s plan is clearly to let time do its thing. As the season continues, visions of the extreme violence seen on the Boardwalk will fade and become less of a talking point for many. As summer kicks in and more families come to Ocean City, the hope is the focus will turn away from the high-profile incidents to more positive news. Recent history from years past confirm this is likely, as room rates head up and families vacation in higher numbers. Nonetheless, it would be wrong for officials to not feel the same sense of urgency today as they felt the night the Mayor and Council were roasted by residents and business owners over a seemingly hands-off approach to addressing the crime wave. It’s important for everyone to remember what took place and to craft a proactive plan to ensure repeat incidents do not occur.