My daughter Suzanne will be graduating from high school in ten days. Last week was her prom, after which she and a gaggle of her classmates rented a beach house on the Texas coast for two days, doing what high school seniors since time immemorial have done when the end is nigh. I was speaking to her earlier by phone, and I asked how it all went. She said they had “fun” – a suitably vague answer – but then she added that a police officer had stopped at the rented quarters after they had arrived to give them a stern talk about proper behavior and what was expected of them. Apparently they listened, because no one wound up in either the county jail or the emergency room I’m told.
Still, I was quite impressed to think that the local cops did this. I suppose they’re acclimated to visiting students and the havoc that can be wreaked, and wisely try to be proactive. And that got me thinking back to my own pre-graduation beach trip, at which time, luckily, there were no police to be seen anywhere. Nor landlords.
Let me explain.
I didn’t go to the beach before my high school graduation, but I did go before college commencement. As with Suzanne, a group of my classmates and I had planned to rent a beach house on the Carolina coast and spend several days ‘relaxing.’ The only problem was that, unlike the modern Texas scenario in which the cops were firm but apparently resigned to the influx of young partiers and their wallets, the realtors along the Outer Banks in the 1980s did NOT want to rent their properties to irresponsible college punks at any price.
The solution? Find religion.
I’m not sure that this was a compliment at the time, but it was decided by acclamation that I was the most ‘proper looking’ of the bunch, and therefore that I would be the spokesman. The group – all in beach wear and flip-flops except for me – drove to Nags Head in several cars, with me being the only one wearing a suit and tie in the heat and humidity of late spring. That’s because I was purportedly the organizer of a gathering of young Christians who wanted to rent a place at the beach for solitude as we studied scripture. No joke.
Like the frauds that we were, they dropped me a block away from the realtor and parked around the corner so that the party-wagon, with several kegs precariously balanced in the back seat and trunk, wasn’t visible from the front office.
I must have done a convincing job of appearing pious (oddly, my ex-wife oft opined that my late former mother-in-law thought I was the “religious one” in the family, but I’m not sure why). I don’t remember much of my conversation with the realtor, except that he did make passing comment about “rowdy fraternity boys” and how pleased he was that such a nice group of young people was coming to enjoy the property instead.
Keys in hand, once at the house, off came the tie, on went the trunks, and out came the beer. The Rolling Stones replaced contemplative church music, and girls in bikinis materialized out of nowhere.
I stressed during the trip that the realtor would make an unannounced visit to greet the “nice group of young people” about which he had only heard secondhand… from me.
He didn’t. And we did no damage to the house. A win-win.
But I’ve still not determined in which layer of Dante’s Inferno are incarcerated those who falsely profess piety for debauched purposes.
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