I was kind of grumpy when I first heard about the surfer getting arrested in Malibu.
We’re all doing our part, right?
Sheltering-in-place, wearing whatever paper-towel-elastic face contraptions they’re handing out at supermarket entrances, and doing inventory on non-essential cloth items in the laundry room, just in case the toilet paper really does run out.
And this guy’s SURFING?
My irritation shifted, though, as I watched the (hilariously narrated) video documenting the arrest. Not toward the deputies, or the captains of the lifeguard and sheriff boats. They’re just doing their jobs.
The state closed down the last of the beaches here a couple of Fridays ago. Twenty-two people were cited the next evening for watching the sunset. That’s the actual headline: “Deputies Issue Citations to 22 People Watching the Sunset.”
Of course, this is an incredibly aggressive, deadly virus. My parents, who are in the highest-risk age demographic, also live in the area with the highest per capita concentration of coronavirus in the country. And no, it’s not New York City.
NYC is showing an incredible resilience and strength reminiscent of 9/11, in the face of what may be an even more brutal storm of circumstances. But not everywhere is NYC, in terms of severity. We're fortunate here in San Diego County to have (so far) been relatively spared. Arguments from herd immunity to regional temperatures to public transit (or lack thereof) to social distancing to draconian shut-down measures are being credited for these kind of disparities in hot spots around the country.
No one really knows, though.
And that’s the hardest part of this for most of us, right?
I’m following the rules. I’ve been social distancing for most of my adult life anyway, so this isn’t really a stretch. Minimum six feet of separation, limited to no physical interaction, rarely leaving the house… instead of writing, I should be developing an online course in this way of existence. I’m a professional.
When I did venture out before the closures, I encountered similar souls on the beach, taking care to maintain plenty of space. Even in the ocean, surfers were keeping their distance from each other, nodding, appreciating, until their government finally took the ocean away, too, in the name of public health.
Certainly not mental health, evidenced by the guy yesterday in a wetsuit, waving and kicking from the sidewalk at passing vehicles, with ‘Give me waves or give me Covid’ written in Sharpie on the bottom of his board.
In announcing the closures, two beach town mayors pointed to emailed complaints from constituents about surfers not staying home, as fuel for the ocean ban.
The beaches were still open for active, non-congregating users. So were those constituents actually concerned about public health, or were they irritated, with a tinge of fear, that surfers weren’t making the same choice as them? Or maybe both?
Complicated, isn’t it?
Going in the ocean a couple of weeks ago was a choice, although it seems frivolous now, in light of the challenges gripping the country. And it’s not a choice anymore, one of many we're both willing and forced to sacrifice in the name of the greater good.
We're having a lot of choices made for us.
Which brings me back to that video of the lone surfer, stand-up paddle boarding through an empty Malibu lineup, as ginormous boats give chase and sheriff deputies pursue him on foot down the beach.
One of the comments under the video wonders if there’s a gofundme page set up for that guy’s bail yet, because they'd want to donate.
I’ve already donated to relief funds for health-care workers, food delivery, and other assistance efforts in response to this crisis.
I think I’d probably donate to that gofundme page, too.