It was a short walk on a very long Florida Beach for Don and Pat (Two Crazy Old People) Early morning walks are best for us as our minds are crisp and clear allowing our conversations to flow. On this day, we found ourselves jumping from one topic to another endeavoring to remain on track. Our intermittant laughter continued to erupt while we pretended to figure out life sharing our thoughts and insights with one another. As we advanced our walk and conversation, we became oblivious to the cracking seashells under our feet and the wet sand squishing into our sneakers. This was our time to spend enjoying one another, the beautiful gulf view, and awesome beach.
For some reason when we are together, we encounter the most fascinating people and today was no exception. They appear out of nowhere becoming as loose yarn weaving themselves into our lives, attaching and impacting us if only for a brief time. We embrace them, we listen, and we learn.
On this day, we were introduced to “Beach Man Chris”. Chris was slight built, ponytailed, tattooed and presented a scruffy beard along with a lively personality. He appeared to be a simple kind of guy, living a simple life who could be happy with very little. He disclosed that he’d lived on the beach for a while and was in his late fifties. It wasn’t very long before much conversation ensued. It became apparent Chris was proud of his occupation and accomplishments and very willing to share the details with us.
By all standards, Chris had been a hard working spending his days at what appeared to be an ordinary job. He mentioned he’d received an early retirement from the Federal Government working as a mail carrier delivering mail through “rain sleet and hail”!
Early in life Chris had this crazy dream to live on the beach, but his father “Strongly” encouraged him to secure a job with a future, and one that provided benefits. Chris lovingly explained that his dad endured a difficult journey and desired better for his son. Chris’ job paid decently and afforded Chris an early retirement, enabling him to live out his “Fantasy”.
When it was time for retirement Chris quickly escaped from “what was” to his dream of Warm Weather and Wet Sand”. Eventually Chris found himself owning and operating a “Beach Chair” rental business.
Don and I stood in the center of that dream/ business (a carnival of sorts). Chris explained he’d worked alone over the years residing in many colorful clapboard houses along the beach. He continued dreaming, believing he would “one day” own one of them. The house thing never quite worked out for Chris. (Perhaps it wasn’t to be) and now those same houses were out of his price range.
Chris provided beach chairs to his customers, along with many interesting games both competitive and simple. His rustic “wooden checker board” was neatly displayed in the sand along with checkers strategically placed in each square. We were fascinated as Chris began setting up his “playground” including a large handmade wooden “Jenga” replicating the much smaller version found in stores. Lying in the sand was a large pair of “wooden dice” next to two “Corn Hole Boards” (including beanbags) spaced the perfect distance apart, waiting for the games to begin.
He created a small “Putting Course” to afford potential customers an opportunity to win a free Beach Chair for a day, if they landed a golf ball in the white metal bucket. Chris informed us there were winners each day which provided great advertising and gave him the competitive edge.
It was obvious Chris took great pride in his work, talking and answering prospective customers questions appearing to care about those he was serving.
It was fun listening to him describe his life to us. We began to understand that Chris was a risk taker, possessing amazing courage to realize his dream. When Chris opened his rental business, it was an endeavor offering no guarantees. If it rained a couple of days, Christ lost a lot of money. It was apparent his dream required hard work and determination. It also occurred to us that Chris’s journey may have taken him many places along the way, and like many of us, Chris could also be carrying an untold story, one we knew nothing about.
Don and Chris continued dialoging as Don shared his envy of Chris’ perceived freedom and fun life. Don explained he’d wished he’d taken more risks in his life “once upon a time”. Chris on the other hand admitted to Don, that although he enjoyed his life he envied Don’s journey in the Corporate World and of course the “Hot Babe” he held on his arm. Yep! That would be me!! The three of us laughed acknowledging,
“The Grass is Always Greener”
Before we walked away, we continued observing Chris go about his daily routine. He meticulously placed his beach chairs in rows giving each of them a “perfect” view of the water, then carefully rolled out the artificial turf in front of them creating a “relaxed cozy appearance”. Each of the chairs were fitted with an umbrella to keep the sun at bay, and the artificial turf served a practical purpose of removing the sand from between his customers toes. Chris thought of everything!
Thank you Chris for sharing a snippet of your journey with us. Thank you for inspiring us and touching our lives with your dream.
Chance Encounter? Different Choices?