A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Well, I knew it. I knew it and people called me crazy but I was right: the waters in which we swim around here are indeed shark-infested. Earlier this week, eighteen big old sharks were spotted close to the shores off West Hampton, Long Island. Eighteen! One would be enough to send me screeching into the distance.

If you ask me, going into the ocean is like going into space, assuming you believe in extraterrestrial life (which I do, of course). It is a whole other world down there, one in which we mammals are not exactly welcome, made clear by the fact that we can’t breathe. That is what one would call a hostile environment. Now, I am all for progress and exploration and academic curiosity. But my point is, just as astronauts assume a certain risk when launching into the great unknown, so should people who choose to splash about among all those squishy, fishy aliens. Lord knows what they’re up to down there. And as for sharks! Well, I don’t care what type they are or how few people die from attacks versus getting hit by cars. Those suckers have a gagillion teeth and have been around for 420 million years—they are basically dinosaurs. That’s practically science. Swimming around with man-eating dinosaurs? No thank you, sir. Not this girl.

Clearly, I am not a particularly fun beach companion. But there is this constant pressure over the summer to drag my perennially pale behind out on Long Island railroad to some public shoreline so I can sweat in the sun, dip my toes in the icy cold, smelly Sound and get sand all over everything I own.

“Why don’t we do this more often?” my friends always say as we stand in the cramped vestibule of the LIRR train on the way back to Manhattan, sunburned and sticky. I choose not to answer. I can’t out myself like that. I’d be shunned. It’s not at all the popular position these days. But since when are city-dwellers such sun-worshippers? What happened to dressing in black all the time and looking like we never get out of our high-rise buildings? Did I miss the memo? Do I have to move inland? Then I’d be forced to contend with lakes, I’m sure, and everyone telling me how glorious it is to spend a day floating on the placid waters of a giant, unflushable fish toilet filled with snapping turtles and leeches. Blech.

Don’t get me wrong, we have to do what we can to beat the uniquely stifling heat of a New York City summer. I’ve been hosing Gus off in the dog park recently as an excuse to spritz myself a little, too. If there was a clean and not terribly crowded public pool that didn’t cost a night at the Gansevoort, I’d be there. But this beach nonsense, I just can’t get with it. And I am tired of pretending I do. I’m taking a stand! And I have a feeling I’m not alone. Join me in speaking out against the weekend warrior beach culture! Or keep silently suffering as your friends and family drag you to the Jersey Shore to tangle with the juicehead gorillas for another weekend. The choice is yours. My air conditioner awaits.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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