Sitting in McFly’s On the Hook spacious and comfortable snack shop on Sandy Hook for an hour or so yesterday was a fascinating experience and another opportunity to observe people in action.
Maybe it’s the new found freedom of being out after shuttered behind doors and out of restaurants for the Covid months. Maybe it’s the new nerve people have because they can say whatever they want on Facebook and not fear being faced for their rudeness. Maybe it’s just that people have changed.
But goodness, people were certainly rude today.
Barney, the owner of this lovely addition to Sandy Hook that’s ony there because of the astonishing amount of money Barney poured in to it to ensure he met every National Park standard, rule and regulation in order to open and try to eke out a business and pay that debt, is a genuinely nice guy. An Irishman with a great sense of humor and even bigger heart, doesn’t seem to get perturbed by the rudeness.
But sitting observing it, made me realize people have forgotten the niceties of life.
Sure, some people came in, looked around, didn’t buy anything, and walked out. That’s okay. Maybe they didn’t see anything they wanted and decided they weren’t hungry or thirsty. Others simply flood Barney with questions, complain they haven’t seen a ranger and don’t know anyone else to ask. Others don’t ask about the park or Fort Hancock history, they want to know what Barney paid to be there, how much it costs him to buy his hot dogs and sodas, and other quite personal questions no polite person should be asking of a stranger.
Then there were the others who came in looking for a bathroom. They weren’t going to buy anything, just using the bathroom. Nope, Barney explained, he had to take that privilege away since there were so many people coming in, not to buy, not to have so much as a soda or a bar of candy, just to use the bathroom. The National Park Service has bathrooms. Use them.
This isn’t to say there weren’t charming people who came in as well. A couple with their two children who came from Staten Island and wanted to climb the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. They were crushed the lighthouse and museum are still closed because of Covid and that wouldn’t be possible. But they were happy, gracious and grateful when I told them about the Twin Lights, the fact they’re open, and the kids would have not one, but two lighthouses to climb!
They were so happy and polite they even stayed a bit longer to hear some of my stories about the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who was a lighthousekeeper there, and the fact the Pledge of Allegiance was recited publicly for the first time right there in front of a giant flag at the Twin Lights.
No, the really rude ones were the ones who brought in garbage. The Park Service has a Carry in Carry Out policy for garbage; you brought it, you ate or drank what it covered, it’s lighter, so carry it back out with you and save the Park Service the expense of garbage collection.
So when one gentleman came in with some papers and an empty bottle in his hand, went directly to Barney’s garbage cans for customers who eat at the tables, never stopped for anything to buy, and dumped his garbage in the can, Barney couldn’t resist. In his sweetest, nicest, most lovely voice with that deep Irish brogue, he told the gentleman, “you know, the Park Service has carry in, carry out, you could just take this out to your car with you.” The older gentleman, not missing a bit said, “I picked it up off the ground, helping to keep the place clean.”
But nothing comes close to the gentleman walking his dog on a leash. He came in, apparently soon after his dog had his morning constitutional, the plastic bag held daintily in his outstretched hand distance from his body, and walked over to the garbage can half full of napkins, ice cream papers and the like. But Barney’s wife happened to be present and observed him.
I didn’t quite hear what she had to say to the gentleman. But I did see him walking out quickly, bag still in his outstretched hand. Carrying home in his car apparently all of a sudden seemed like a far better and safer idea.