Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Value of Priceless

Today was instructional...
I love to surf, but nobody really expects to get to do much surfing in the winter time, even in Florida. Windy, overcast days come along frequently...but every once in a while, we get a day like today. It started off with clear skies, and a forecast for small waves and light wind. A huge plus was the temperature was supposed to rise up to a springtime number around 80 degrees. That pretty much summed up an ideal beach day and I had the time.
The problem was, all of my friends were working and the surf forecast also allowed for the waves to be too small to ride. This causes the average surfer to start adding up what the trip will cost, and how you are going to feel about that 1 1/2 hour drive back if you get skunked and have no waves ridden at all.
I usually make this list in my head: $12 in gas, $7 in tolls, $10 in junk food and coffee (that I seem to get no matter how much I tell myself I won't do it next time), up to $7.50 in parking fees if you can't find a free spot, and finally there is the time you could have spent doing something else more fun that driving to the beach and back.
Today was one of those days where I got there, it looked too small to even put my toe in that cold water, so I drove even farther to see if a better spot had guys out surfing to get me excited about it, but that parking lot was TOTALLY empty, and it never is. I knew what the problem was, yesterday had been a good day, and today was to be something less than.
So, I drove back to the pier and then found that my secret parking of two hidden places where you can park for free, was under construction...and apparently the construction was to add parking meters. These meters are $2.50 an hour and I'm not sure what they do with the money, but I'd like to think some of it gets used to make sure cruise ships aren't dumping their septic tanks right offshore...I could be wrong and the money goes towards sending civic leaders on well-deserved cruises themselves.
I ended up paying $7.50 to park and spent most of the beautiful morning with 3 other surfers in the water. I was still keeping that tally in my head, wondering how many waves I needed to catch before my meter was up and before the wind started blowing. It was a good time and when I was done and packing up my stuff, I felt like it was a worthwhile use of a sunny Florida day.
Then, something very strange happened, and to truly explain it so the young folks that read this can understand, I have to remind you how much things have changed:
My age group loves to trade stories about how we collected bottles on the side of the road to buy gas to go to the beach. You'd drive, hoping there were waves, and if you saw a car coming the other way with surfboards on top, you'd stick your arm out the window and waggle your thumb to get an up or down....if you got a thumbs up, you and your friends in the car were excited the whole rest of the way to the beach. Nowadays, all of us just go look at a surfcam on our cellphone to see what the waves are like. If you have a photo of yourself surfing from back in those days, you were somebody famous, or somebody you knew had a very expensive camera, and that somebody wanted to sit in the sand with that camera and take pictures, hoping they would turn out when the film was developed some day in the future.
That stuff started changing back when video cameras came out. I probably have a handful of treasured photos of the time before that..but after the age of video? I have hundreds of hours of my son playing soccer, so much, that even he get bored after a few minutes. These kids nowadays, they have no idea of what it means that we can recall so much with so little effort.
But I do...

What changed the day from a positive balance on my internal ledger to priceless, was one solitary sentence from a stranger that walked up to me in the parking lot: "Hey, I saw you on the surf cam, and you were doing so well out there that I decided I needed to grab my board and go surfing!"

That, my friend, is the definition of priceless..

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