My family spent last week in a house in Seagrove Beach, Florida. It was a lovely abode and all of our adult children and stepchildren flew in to join my wife and I for several days of, well, goofing off. We hit four different beaches: Seagrove, Seaside, Grayton, and Blue Mountain. The water at all of them was beautiful with nary a tarball or a whiff of oil to spoil our fun. The residual counter-clockwise winds and westward tides generated by Hurricane Alex had pushed all the oil back toward Mississippi and Louisiana. Bad news for them, but a good break for us — and for all the Florida tourism-based businesses we frequented.
There were plenty of vacationers around but fewer than we've seen in other years. Getting into usually-jammed restaurants like Bud & Alley's and the Red Bar was a snap. There was plenty of room on the beaches. And thanks to the wind, waves were a little higher, a boon for my surfing son.
One thing was different, however: the constant presence of Qualifed Community Responders. QCRs are local citizens being paid by British Petroleum to patrol the beaches. They arrived every morning in vans and were dropped off at tents set up every few hundred yards along the beaches. All day long, they walked in pairs, wearing blue plastic gloves, boots, long pants, and carrying little plastic bags and nets on a stick. They were looking for tar balls, I suppose, though I never saw any of them pick up anything. They'd just walk and look and walk some more, looking very official. They were, as my daughter Mary quipped, doing their part in the "global war on tar."
Here's what they looked like:
BP has hired 6,850 of these folks to patrol the beaches. No doubt, they're working very hard in many spots along the Gulf, but here in the Grayton Beach area, their jobs are pretty cushy, so far — except for having to wear all those clothes in 90-degree heat. Still, we were glad they were there. At least, somebody's making some money off this horror. Eighteen dollars an hour, we were told.