All the other beach authorities have a vessel or a crib that distinguishes them from the spring-breakers. You’ve got the guys in helicopters, searching the high seas for man-eating sharks or whatever. You’ve got the guys on ATVs, patrolling the dunes for illicit picnic activity. You’ve got the lifeguards in their stands, keeping an eye out for pretty people who might need resuscitating. But I, Ben Cube, originally from the land of New Jersey, do my law enforcement on foot. When someone is in danger, I don’t need to arrive on a glimmering white jet ski or leap out of a pastel cabana on stilts. I don’t even need the sanction of the South Florida government. I just need my swimming trunks and my impeccable sense of right and wrong. Yes, you’re correct. Mine is the face of vigilante beach justice.
On a typical day I wake up before dawn so I can reach the pier while the local rednecks still think they can fish with impunity. Many of these fishermen know me, having been on the receiving end of my justice in the past, and they pack up their gear and their coolers as soon as they see me coming. It takes all my self-restraint not to frogmarch them back down the boardwalk. But there’s always at least one oblivious tourist, or some doofus kid partaking in his first fishing lesson with Daddy, who needs to be taught the rules. “It’s right there on the sign,” I say as I approach these latter miscreants at the end of the pier. “No fishing. Read it and weep.”
The father stops reeling in whatever endangered sea creature he was reeling in. “Are you a game warden?” he says.
“If you don’t throw those squid back into the ocean by the count of five,” I respond, “I’ll be forced to make a citizen’s arrest. Do you really want your son to see that?” Nine times out of ten, they don’t.
Once the pier is purged of its lawbreakers, I extract my Sharper Image binoculars from their all-weather case and train them on the horizon. If I see too many people in a catamaran, or not enough lifeboats on a cruise ship, I don’t hesitate to call in reinforcements. Though as far as I can tell, the Coast Guard just sits on its collective ass 24 hours a day.
Next order of business is the nude beach. The nude beach attracts your standard law-abiding soul who just wants to sun his or her privates, but unfortunately it also attracts the scum of the earth. If you wonder where all of Florida’s creeps and perverts congregate during daylight hours, it’s here, where boobs and wangs can be tossed about freely in open air. If I see a young female spring-breaker, lounging on a towel, shyly baring her breasts to the sky, you can bet that right behind her will be sitting a fully-clothed troll filming her incognito with a camera hidden in his duffle bag, as if he’s a degenerate James Bond or some shit. This does not fly with me. Babe or no babe, this young woman does not deserve to have her boobs live-streamed to the internet.
So what do I do? I plop myself between woman and pervert, effectively obstructing the camera’s view. Sometimes I leisurely remove my swim trunks in the duffle bag’s line of sight so the pervert will be treated to artsy footage of my jiggling testicles. The pervert usually leaves quickly with his contraband, and after that my only duty is to inform the young woman of the valorous steps I’ve just taken to thwart her career in amateur porn. When I reach for a business card in my pocket so she knows that she can call me anytime if she ever sees anything suspicious, even if it’s in the middle of the night, I often forget that I’m still naked, and my hand skips comically over my thigh and collides with my sweatiest area. But such is life on the nude beach!
Next I break for lunch in the shade beneath the lifeguard stand.
In the afternoon most outlaws tend to be sun-stricken and lethargic, so I try to round up some beach cats for Animal Control. While securing one of these stray varmints in a sand dune last weekend, my hand got scratched up pretty bad, but I’m watching the wound closely. Plus I have faith in the ocean to sterilize 99 percent of infections, even rabies.
After the cat round-up comes my least favorite part of the day, but every hour can’t be a heroic hour when it comes to justice. You would not believe the amount of garbage these Spring Break hooligans generate during their week-long revels on the beach. I’m talking Silo cups, plastic bottles, water-logged underthings, cans of Bud Light, broken sunglasses, abandoned kiddie pools, candy wrappers, and once even a papasan chair. It takes an entire industrial trash bag to clean it up every afternoon, and that’s only for a two-mile stretch of beach. You’d think these kids were raised by animals. Still, I appreciate their youthful spunk. I was also a boy once. Though I don’t recall ever disposing of used condoms in the sand. Speaking of which, what kind of woman gives it up on a family beach? If I ever catch any of these litterbug hedonists in the act, trying to hide their hanky-panky under sun umbrellas or thinking that I can’t see them blatantly humping each other in the surf, I won’t stop until they’re registered as sex offenders. The occasional glass bottle? Fine. A loud radio every now and then? Fine. Sex on the beach? Not on my watch.
At the end of the day there’s always some human flotsam who thinks it’s a good idea to empty her bag of Cheetos into a quiet arrangement of seagulls and warmly invite hell to rain down upon us. This is intolerable beach etiquette. In what world is it okay to feed human snacks to nuisance birds so that everyone within a five-umbrella radius must flee like extras in a horror movie to avoid being pooped on? Or worse? No no no. This old woman has earned herself the full heat of my errant frisbee.
Finally, as night descends, I remain seated on my towel until I’m sure everyone has vacated the beach in a timely manner, before they start thinking about singing songs around an illegal bonfire or drunkenly setting off fireworks as if they’re somewhere in Mexico. When the last of the nudists put on their cover-ups and the final spring-breakers hurl their Silo cups into the ocean, I can finally return to my bungalow knowing that I’ve preserved the sanctity of the beach for another day. If I could afford a white jet ski, this would be my moment to ride it into the sunset.