I’m on vacation in beautiful Panama City Beach this weekend, courtesy of a father-in-law who loves it here and takes the family every chance he gets, and a school system kind enough to give teachers a four-day weekend in mid-October. What’s that? The kids get the long weekend too? Meh.
I’ve been here before, but there’s something different about being here as an adult and being here as a kid, or for that matter, a pre-adult. The opportunities for relaxation are virtually endless. The beach is powder-fine and not too crowded this time of year, the water is a glorious iridescent bluey-green swirl, the temperatures are warm but not oppressive, the sunrises and sunsets are transcendent.
And I have ruined it all by peopling the waters with sharks.
Metaphorical ones, mind you. I did see a shark here last time we visited — tiny one, about the length of my arm, just cruising the shallows like a deadly, silent Roomba — but I don’t think those are terribly common to these parts. No, my sharks are sharks of the mind, because I have done a thing that I swore as a teacher I would never do: I have brought work with me on vacation.
I don’t have any excuse. It’s a terrible move, but it’s the end of the quarter, I’m behind on grading (juggling 180 students will do that to a man, no matter how well-meaning), and it simply has to get done. I’ve got a stack of about fifty student essays to grade and a gradebook full of back assignments that have to be put into the electronic grading system before I head back on Tuesday.
So as we pulled in to the condo and took the first breathtaking look at the view from our balcony, I saw not only the vast unknowable expanse of the ocean but also the ominous stack of paper tucked away in my bag. I saw not only the pearlescent sands where my pasty skin will suffer hideous burns, but also the labyrinth of clicks and categories and long webpage loading times that I must walk to get all these grades put in.
In short, I look at that water and I see mothertrucking sharks.
Because I know that as soon as I let my bare feet sink into that sand, as soon as I dunk one toe in the ocean, the moment I watch my son’s face light up when he hits that beach, those papers and grades and all my obligations are going to melt away from my mind like so much butter on a hot plate. And then they are going to devour me when I get back to work on Tuesday. In fact, I’ve already chummed the waters, because in between the last sentence and this one, I brought the laptop out onto the deck with me and the cool night breeze is drifting through what’s left of my hair and the starlight is twinkling on the waves and the headlights are floating slowly past on the strip and all I can think about is how glorious my run will be in the morning and how many hours I can possibly let my son play on the beach before people start to question whether I’m his father. (You know, cuz his skin will be a delicious ochre color before we leave, I’ve no doubt.)
This might be a time to panic with all these sharks circling about. Or maybe it’s time to remember that these are only metaphorical sharks, and as such pose as much threat to me as a whiff of vegetarian pasta. (Unpleasant, but not ultimately harmful.) Times like these call for bigger boats, or maybe just bigger glasses of wine.
Mm, wine. Time to chum the waters a little more.
This post is part of SoCS.