Gloucester, Mass – A few months ago, I was out for long walk on one of the first warm days of spring. It was the first day that I actually got hot. I daydreamed about cooling off with a dip somewhere. And then it hit me… There might not be any cool-off dips this year. Swimming pools, beaches, and ponds could all remain closed for the summer, if it’s still not safe for folks to gather. I went home with a cloud of depression hanging over me. How would we survive summer in the city without lap swimming and beach outings? Fast forward to now. Beaches are open! Pools will open next month! And NOTHING could make me happier than this pandemic field trip to Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester.
There are a lot of rules about going to the beach in Massachusetts this year. Groups are restricted to 10 people or less. There must be 12 feet between groups. Masks are mandatory in parking lots and bathrooms. Some beaches are open to residents only. But these restrictions did not deter us.
Surprisingly, 12 feet apart does not feel like much. I mean, the beach felt kind of crowded. Not “people-are-breathing-on-me” crowded, but definitely more crowded than I would have expected on a weekday in June during a pandemic.
Nobody was wearing face masks. There was a large group of teenagers who were cavorting as teenagers do, without masks and with alcohol. Nobody was officially monitoring the 12-foot rule (although most people were respecting it, besides the teens).
Fortunately, it was easy enough to go away from that risky business, and find a safe spot that was far enough away from the crowds. The kids dispersed to the farthest corners of the beach anyway, climbing on rocks and catching crabs. They had a blast. The sun was hot and the water was cold (as it is in New England). And I was overjoyed. This summer is salvageable after all.