It Was a Drive-By Beaching

Today I am going to tell you a story about the time me and my best friend B went away together for Spring Break.

This could conjure up expectations of a “Girls Gone Wild” type post if I failed to omit one important detail—we were 8th grade girls and we went to Florida to stay with my grandparents at their condo.

Every morning we would throw on our suits, flip-flops and tanning accelerator, hop on  three-wheeled bicycles and spend our days in the sun by the community pool. Aside from the occasional water aerobics class and shuffleboard tournament, we basically had the place to ourselves.

My grandma was someone who believed that once meat was cooked, it didn’t need to be refrigerated and could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrated. What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large Ziploc bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

Because of a desire to avoid food poisoning, we often suggested frequenting various chain restaurants for dinner, be it gram’s favorite—Juicy Lucy—or something more familiar to those of us under the age of 65. This suggestion was often well-received, not only because my grandpa loved to eat anything anywhere, but because Happy Hour drinks were 2-for-1 at most of these restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant that when you walked into any Applebees, Outback, etc. between the hours of 4-6, you would be greeted with tables full of senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes, Screwdrivers or Vodka Tonics.

The waitresses were thrilled with their tips, I’m sure.

One day my grandparents presented us with an exciting proposition—going to the beach.  About an hour away, the beach was where the action was. We eagerly packed our beach bags and hopped into the backseat the Cadillac, windows down, Neil Diamond warbling from the speakers.

As we got closer, B and I exchanged excited glances and gathered up our bags, waiting for the car to slow down and park so we could join in the whole beach experience.

The car never stopped.

“This is the beach,” said my grandpa, proudly pointing it out as we kept driving by. Confused, I asked where we were going to park.

“What? Why would we?” asked my grandma, looking a me as if I had just suggested only playing 12 Bingo cards at once or actually refrigerating leftover chicken. “It’s too busy, too hot. Do you girls want some ice cream?”

Now mortified, I looked at B and saw panic in her eyes. The only way we wanted ice cream was if it could be eaten on the beach, which meant the car would have to stop at some point soon.

But despite my protests, the next time the car stopped was at McDonalds just off the highway. Grandpa placed the order of sundaes and cones while we sat in shock in the back. No basking in the sun on the sand, no dipping our toes in the ocean—just a drive-by in the Caddy and “Sweet Caroline” on repeat.

As we pulled up to the pick-up window, my grandma leaned over the driver’s seat and gave strict orders to the window worker to include the condiments, which I naively assumed to be the optional nuts for her sundae.

In retrospect, I should have been prepared to hear her demand not the nuts, but the free packets of ketchup and mustard to add to her collection back home.

“Free condiments means free condiments,” she said with a chortle, turning around to face us in the backseat. “When you’re paying (.99 cents) for each ice cream, you better make sure you get your money’s worth.”

Because after all, nothing completes a day at the beach like free ketchup and mustard to hoard with your ice cream.

“Now who’s ready for happy hour?” she asked, tucking the packets into her oversized purse, no doubt to make room for the sugar sure to be swiped from the restaurant.

I looked at B and saw hope in her eyes.

We were ready.

Make it a double. 

This trip down memory lane was brought to you by this weeks RemembeRED prompt:

Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life. Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?

As you probably know, I could write a whole book on my senior experiences. And trust me, we always find the funny…and the discounts.

42 responses to “It Was a Drive-By Beaching

  1. “could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrate” love that line… My girlfriend and I went to Marathon Key and spent all weekend talking like Robin Leech. Weird things happen when you’re young…

  2. The worst part must have been having to listen to Neil’s Sweet Caroline. When I missed out on a day at the beach, at least I got to listen to Elvis singing that very same song. Of course, if you hate them both, it’s still kind of two for the price of one, wouldn’t you say? 🙂

  3. that is amazing, tragic but amazing.
    I went to the beach when I was 15 with my best friend at the time, and we lied and said we were 21 to the cute boys staying in the same hotel. I don’t know what’s weirder, the fact that they believed us or that they didn’t but hung out with us anyways…hmm. This is why I don’t want children.

  4. I’m crying, because I’m laughing so hard. The horror of thinking about actually STOPPING at the beach, when you could just look at it from the car! Grandparents are hilarious.

    And why don’t I know about these 2-for-1 happy hours?

  5. Hilarious!

    Old people are a trip. I’m sure by the time I’m that age, I will be so bored by the conventions of society that I’ll be asking them to just give me that free car at the mall.

    I really hope your post title is a Mrs. Doubtfire reference.

  6. I too did not know about the 2 for 1 happy hour. I feel informed.

    Living in LA most of my life, the beach was never too exciting. I always laughed at tourists that wanted to go to the beach so badly. I was like, “Ha! Your vagina will have sand in it for a week!”.

    • This was 15 years ago so I’m not sure they still have the 2-for-1 deal going. Plus, I think it was a Flordia thing, as I never heard of it in MIchigan. As for the beach, I’m not a fan either. But when you’re in eighth grade and surrounded by 65-year-olds in bathing suits, going to a beach surrounded by those without AARP cards sounds like heaven 😉

      • Two for one is still in full effect down here in Florida….I LOVE getting the 4:30 pm call from my parents asking me if I want Carrabas for “an early dinner.”
        Yes please!

  7. Did they also collect hotel soaps and shampoos?

    • I never traveled with them, but I’m pretty sure she would have, although she was more into the condiments. But I’m not kidding when I say she nonchalantely told me a story once about going out to dinner with a group of Bingo ladies and having one of them take and “extra” steak knife from the restaurant home with her in her purse. Maybe she needed to be cut off from the 2-for-1 drinks a bit sooner?

  8. Loved this. And hey, at least you did get ice cream out of it so it wasn’t a total loss!

    Re. the condiments- yes, my mom and dad both did that and I have to stop myself from doing it too- However. now you can ask Eden that some of those packets actually come in very handy on picnics. 🙂 So I guess if you’re gonna steal them, use them.

  9. OMG lol! Seriously what is with old people and free condiments!? My g-ma in law did that badly too but we loved it. I can’t judge, I have my hordes of things…toilet paper, cans of tuna, paper towels, soap. Dad taught me the things that would become “money” in the case of, well, Apocalypse or something.

    This story reminds me of the time, gosh I’m pretty sure it was 8th grade…my cool hip aunt sent me and sister Victoria’s Secret gift certs for Christmas. With the only VC in the city 60 miles away, dad trucked us there (literally, in his green Ford bronco that he ripped the top off to make a convertible), stopped at the HEYUUUGE mall entrance (OMG we were STOKED!!!) and said, “You have 10 minutes.”

    It took us 8 just to get to the store. Sigh. Dad’s just didn’t get it.

  10. I gave up my condiment drawer (inspired by my Grandma) once I realized I never used any of them, and plastic ramikins are not hermetically sealed. Between the mold and the 4lbs of salsa I only had because I don’t use salsa it seemed really silly. Poor girls.

  11. What’s up with grandmas and random condiments? Seriously, they ALL do it! My Granny Z. hoarded sweet n’ low, I swear her purse was always full of the stuff, and the weirdest part is that I dont think she every actually used sweet n’ low! But she also always had a purse full of candies, so we forgave her her eccentricities 🙂

  12. “Meat could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrate” — but the packets of condiments could not.

    Omigosh! Were we separated at birth? Do we have the same grandparents? Did they steal the condiments from restaurants? So horrifying! I remember it all. My gram would squeeze the stolen cache or ketchup into her ancient glass bottle of Heinz. It took forever. I swear, I wanted to use my allowance to buy her a new bottle.

    Hilarious and fabulous as always! 😉

  13. Your grandma sounds like a hoot. At least she didn’t confuse condoms with condiments. My grandma used to steal packages of sugar. I’m sure there was a stash of condiments in her bag, too.

    Absolutely loved this: That meant that when you walked into any Applebees, Outback, etc. between the hours of 4-6, you would be greeted with tables full of senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes, Screwdrivers or Vodka Tonics.

    Did you ever make it to the beach?

    • We drove by the beach, so technically, we made it to the beach. However, we never stepped foot outside the car.
      Me and my parents used to take vacations there all the time when I was little, and there was a little beach action. I also went back a few times alone after this adventure, but never went to the beach. It would kind of suck to go alone, so I hung out at the pool and swindled old people out of money in shuffleboard tournaments. 😉

  14. Okay, first of all, your grandparents sound awesome. I can just imagine you in the back seat of the car, sitting there with your one-piece bathing suit and floaties on your arms, ready to go in the water, only to be told that you’ll be swimming in free ketchup packets instead. Did they also take the free plastic cutlery from restaurants? I find those, as well as the little single pouches of peanut butter from breakfast joints, make for great office drawer fillers. Not that I would know.

    • We were 15, so there were no floaties unless you count what we stuffed our bras with. And yes, plastic cutlery packets were taken, although not stashed in giant freezer bags for years. I can’t really come down too hard on her for that, as I totally do the same thing and bring them with me to work or when I travel.

  15. I feel kinda bad laughing at your expense but this story is fantastic. I love the hoarding of condiments but even moreso that your grandmother got her condiments to go with the ice cream. Never miss an opportunity for a freebie!

    I suspect that had you two made it to the beach, it would not have been as memorable as the drive by. And I agree with Eden’s take on the beach–you guys would probably have had to deal with sand in all the wrong places 🙂

  16. I think we had/have the same grandma. There’s a reason why the older generations had retirements funds and we don’t.

    THanks for letting me laugh at you.

  17. A story well told & it made me giggle repeatedly! Wow! & the drive by. Your grandpa was sublime! I wonder if he was fully aware of the joke he pulled on you that day?

    My grandmother in law does the same thing with meat to this day. I guess the cramps & diarrhea everyone suffered were from something else, not the bad meat.

    Sorry I keep laughing, but this was really, really funny!

    • Actually, it wasn’t a joke. That’s just how they were and they honestly thought that’s what people did when they went to the beach…

  18. I was in shock right along with you when your grandparents drive right past the beach. I would have been mortified!

  19. This was reminiscent of so many experiences with my grandparents!

    Loving that at the end you two made the best of it and LOVE the word “chortle” !!
    (Although I have to admit I too have a bit of bomb shelter mentality when it comes to ketchup packet hoarding … what’s with that??)

  20. Oh no! Just- oh no!

    Do you and B want to go to the beach?! I’ll take you right now *and* buy you ice cream, hold the ketchup. 🙂

  21. Oh what profound torture…to get so close and yet be so far away. 😦 The condiment hoarding would nearly add insult to injury, too, if it weren’t so endearing. My Mawmaw has wrapped biscuits and rolls in napkins and smuggled them out of the restaurant in her over-sized purse. I feel your pain 🙂

    This line made me laugh out loud. The subtle humor of it was nearly too much for me. “We eagerly packed our beach bags and hopped into the backseat the Cadillac, windows down, Neil Diamond warbling from the speakers.”

    Warbling…ha! 🙂 Love this!

  22. Sorry you didn’t get to actually go to the beach, but then you wouldn’t have this story to amuse us all. The only grandparent I was close to never even learned to drive. I don’t think she collected condiments, but she did reuse bacon grease over and over again.

    Have you read Early Bird by Rodney Rothman? It’s about a 20-something that moves to a retirement community in Florida after losing his TV job. It was entertaining.

    • I did read that a couple of years ago and was pissed I didn’t think to write it first. My experiences are much funnier than his were 😉

      • I don’t doubt it! I was interested in reading it because I’m obsessed with early retirement and I thought it would be really funny given that the writer used to work on the Letterman show.

        I did enjoy reading it, and it was actually kind of touching, but it was not laugh out loud funny.

  23. Jodee Barszewski

    I’m pretty sure Abby you could write plenty of more stories from the good ol’days you and B shared ….I thouroughly enjoyed it!!! I do recall an incident one time that you ,your mom, B ,and me all shared a chocolate cake!!!! Keep them coming!!!…love ya…”B’s” Mom

  24. that was awesome!!

    i know i am supposed to say a bunch of insightful comments, but let’s just say i really appreciated this story. i freakin love the beach and would have DIED if my grandparents just kept driving….

  25. People like your grandma are the reason McDonald’s now has a sliding scale nugget:sauce ratio, and charges 16 cents per packet extra.

    Also, I hoard packets of good soy sauce (not the brown msg water with a panda on the front) as badly, or worse than, any old person with ketchup. I used to have a small bottle I kept in my lunchbox. (Yes, I was *that* kid).

    So no judgement, Grams. Just sayin…

  26. I can top this.

    I bought a beach house, front row, with a gorgeous deck facing the ocean…and only stepped foot on the beach 3 times in 3 years.

    I sold that house and moved to the country to rescue horses and mini-donkeys.

    • I would love to move to the country and rescue horses and mini-donkeys! Add in goats and chickens, and I’m there…screw the beach.

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