ShoreBilly’s Swill: Celebrating Three Years of Syd!
Locally, we are undergoing the annual switch from the peak season to the off-season; however, this year has been a little bit more complicated and awkward for me than most. You’d think that since this is the 26th time I’ve endured the summer to fall morph, I’d have it nailed down by now, but that’s just not the case. I think it’s a myriad of odd circumstances making this one a little tougher for me. Now that I think about it, the whole year (particularly the summer) was just a little bit strange.
The true optimists amongst us will tell you that we are now hitting our “second season”. While the most cynical and pessimistic of us will say; “we never had a first season”. I, oddly enough, fall in the middle of the road on this industry debate. If I had to describe the summer of 2014 in a single word it would be; “forgettable”. It wasn’t great, and it wasn’t horrible. I didn’t lose any loved ones, or spend any time in the hospital, so it was way better than the three previous years in that respect.
I’ve also finally gotten to the point where I don’t worry about things I can’t control. When you’re battling foes like Mother Nature and Uncle Sam to make a living in a seasonal resort town, there’s really only so much you can do. Play the hand you’re dealt and hope for the best. Coming off the first winter in many years when I had pain in my back and shoulders from shoveling snow, I didn’t really know what to expect out of the weather. And don’t start flinging your Al Goreesque theories at me. I buy in to that crap to a point, but I shoveled about 40 inches worth of global warming last winter; then followed it up with an unseasonably cool summer.
Now when I give you my personal opinion and theory on how the weather affected us negatively this summer, don’t call me a whiner, just hear me out. I’m by no means looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. All I’m saying is that we can’t necessarily have our cake and eat it too. And now that I’ve squeezed that many stupid clichés into one paragraph, I’ll move on with my explanation.
I sincerely believe that the weather this summer was actually too perfect. It was just too nice, not just here but in our surrounding areas, to ever get inundated with tourists and beach goers. We still got our annual family vacationers, groups that base their getaways around people with similar vehicles, and those from the north who discovered post Sandy that our beaches are free to get on. What I’m saying is that those who weren’t already committed to coming to Ocean City didn’t necessarily do so.
It’s the summers when the temperatures are often flirting with triple digits that everyone in the surrounding concrete jungles think to themselves while sweating profusely on a subway train; “Man, I gotta get out of here and go to the beach”. The way I envision it in my head is like those Coors Light commercials with a herd of miserably hot people milling about when suddenly a train barrels down the street turning everything to ice while a classic tune by the O’Jays wafts through the inner city air. Only, instead of a hallucination of a metaphoric mode of rail transportation, it’s the knowledge that they can drive to Ocean City. The weather was so mild, that this hypothetical scenario just never really played out. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our weather this summer. It was absolutely perfect. I’ll take our average day this summer 364 times a year with snow on Christmas. But sometimes perfect is too good.
Now let me apologize for my uncharacteristic absence last week and explain how it actually ties into this piece. I’ve recently found myself struggling to resist the urge to backhand all of the people who say; “so, it must be slowing down for you now, huh?” Just because at any given time there are roughly 30,000 or so fewer buffoons in town now than this time a month ago, doesn’t mean that suddenly everything has gotten easy on me. Truth be told, I’ve worked longer, harder, and more often in the past two weeks than I have all year. What people fail to take into account is that when many of the tourists leave, so too do the summer staff. I just finished a 13 day straight stint that consisted of 12 closing shifts and 1 early morning inventory shift. Today is my only day off (and look how I’m spending it) and then it’s back to at least 6 straight closing shifts. I’ve been averaging 60-plus hours at work and 3-4 hours of sleep at night. It’s nothing compared to the 80-100 hour work weeks I pulled through my 20’s and 30’s, but I wasn’t waking up to a pair of toddlers and a fourth grader each morning. Banging out an 80-hour work week was nothing when I had the luxury of sleeping until 2:00 P.M. Now, I battle the narrow window between closing bartender/ manager and opening Daddy. I usually get home between 3:30 and 4:00 a.m. My 9 year old gets on the school bus at 6:50 a.m. Yes, 6 FREAKIN 50! What the hell is that about? I’ve never even seen 6:50 from that side. If I see 6:50, I’m looking at it from the other direction and through only one eye. And putting her on the bus is after waking her, making sure she gets dressed, feeding her (because apparently you have to feed your kids EVERY day), packing a lunch, and checking a backpack. Now toss into the mix the fact that my 2 year old and my 3 year old just recently decided collectively that they were going to walk hand in hand into the “Terrible” stage of life.
Let me take a break from martyring myself and explain that I’m by no means doing any of this alone. As I’ve said countless times before my wife is an absolute super hero. She’s not just the best mother I’ve ever witnessed, she’s the best mother I’ve ever even heard of; let alone had the luxury of spawning with. In addition to being Super Mom and Saintly enough to endure me as a spouse, she’s a full time nurse at a hospital in Salisbury. So her schedule is about as normal and consistent as my thought process. But, it’s my column and she doesn’t read my stuff, so let’s get back to making this about me. (Wink!) She also decided recently (by committee of one) that since we have another steady income in the house, that our three daughters are going to be involved in every activity shy of Navy SEAL training to keep them active. I think it’s fantastic, but now I have a poster sized, color coded and carefully choreographed calendar explaining where I need to be every moment of every day spanning three zip codes.
Anyway, the point being is that I deeply apologize for letting you down last week. I’m just a little overwhelmed right now but I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. I know I write these with tongue in cheek and a whiff of cynicism, but it’s all in character. I am the happiest I’ve ever been and embrace every moment I have.
If you’ll all indulge me for just a moment of self promo (sort of); it was exactly 3 years ago today that a talentless, skill-less, D-student whom we’ll call Syd Nichols wrote the first Shorebilly’s Swill. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWILL!! Thank you so much to all of you who have read and supported the column. I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me. I’m not privy to how many hits, but I’m hoping for the best. Thanks also to my ‘handlers’ whom against their better judgment have permitted me to keep regaling you week after week with a printed copy of my inner monologue.
Thanks for playing along. Until next week, Syd Nichols
I’d love to hear any thoughts, comments, input or advice at [email protected]