As most my age, I grew up in a home where watching the evening news was as natural as the whole family gathering around the dinner table to break our nightly bread. So, of course, Lester Holt and I get together each evening as soon as I’m done getting the Lima-area buzz, delivered so professionally by WLIO anchor Jeff Fitzgerald for the last 33 years.
As I sat last Wednesday at the modern version of the single man’s dining table, called appropriately enough a TV tray, I thought for sure the video clips I was seeing of the beaches of South Padre Island, Texas, and Clearwater, Florida, must have been some footage shot from 2019 as the earlier version of one of those before-and-after stories the news folks like so much and would be followed by some shots of some largely abandoned beaches now, similar to a story earlier in the newscast showing Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square a year ago teeming with tourists and now.
However, the voiceover reporter said that the shots of these hormonally fueled swim-suited college kids that were elbow to elbow were from earlier that same day. Some interviewed, especially one of our state’s own, expressed little regard when the reporter on the beach asked if there were concerns about the pandemic and the CDC’s warnings that we should all be practicing social distancing.
The Buckeye lad, in particular, sounded, to put it mildly, out of touch when he said, “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, that isn’t going to keep me from partying.”
While there were some interviewed who did use the first-person plural pronoun choices, as in we, us and our, the usage wasn’t universal as to what we all are facing throughout the world. Rather, the plurality included only their own demographic around them sporting those colorful new bikinis and baggy trunks.
Of course, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that today’s young people somehow cornered the market on egocentricity. If I’m honest with myself, I had plenty of selfish moments at that age when the wide array of satellites I saw around me in my solar system were pretty much ornaments, with the sun being my own needs and desires. As has been said, the selfishness that so many of the young demonstrate truly won’t disappear until the stork drops off a tiny little bundle on their doorsteps.
Spring break, a rite of youthful passage to herald the arrival of spring, actually has a much longer tail than some might imagine, as in extending all the way back to those hedonistic ancient Romans and Greeks, who revered their gods of wine- for the Romans, Bacchus, and for the Greeks, Dionysus. And, of course, it has always been, for the young, a rite so very enticing.
Once upon a Miami University time, I was so excited when given the parental OK to go to Daytona Beach my junior year that I drove 17-straight hours without relinquishing the wheel of my 1965 light green Ford Galaxie XL just to get there.
And, I doubt, if there were no higher powers to short-circuit what I thought would place me in front of Coppertone-slathered young ladies who would find me far more appealing than many of the girls with whom I shared Slant Walk on Miami’s campus, I would have justified making that Floridian trek regardless of what Walter Cronkite was talking about on the evening news.
However, there was that pretty big thing about the parental OK I had to secure. And, last Wednesday, that’s what I couldn’t quite get out of my mind. Surely, all these college kids bumping into one another weren’t orphans, right? So, given the fact that the urgency of this COVID-19 matter has been with us since the first week of March, where were the parental stop signs that could have been thrown up?
I don’t know. Am I being too hard on today’s generation of 40-something parents of these spring breakers? I just couldn’t have imagined I wouldn’t have put the kibosh on that trip to South Padre or Clearwater were this the ‘90s, and my two daughters were still under my charge and planning to take part, even if I had sanctioned the trip earlier. And, I have enough confidence in them to say, while they wouldn’t have been happy with a late reversal, they’d have understood. Taking it back a generation before, I know my father would have put up that stop sign, and I’d have stopped that Ford Galaxie posthaste.
Yes, when it comes to that young Ohioan who was wearing the mandatory accouterment of the young, the backward ball cap, the one who wasn’t going to let any corona stop him from drinking his fair share of Coronas, whether he could find enough limes or not, long after I’m gone, when he himself is a parent thinking back on his youthful nationally famous few seconds, he just may wish for the same type of do-over that I wish I could execute to erase a couple of my poorly placed footprints on the earliest portions of my life’s trail.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.