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Shoobies at the Jersey Shore: Can’t we all get along? | Opinion

Just like racism or sexism demeans an entire group of people with tired stereotypes, lesser-known tourist-ism generalizes the shoobie community based on reductive tropes.

The boardwalk in  Wildwood.
The boardwalk in Wildwood.Read moreGregg Kohl

As Memorial Day weekend kicks off the official start of summer 2019, the sounds of the season will ring in Shore-goer ears: waves crashing, roller coasters whooshing, lifeguards whistling … and year-round residents griping about the dreaded Shoobie (dun, dun, dun).

It’s not uncommon to hear these Shoobies — Philly-area residents who vacation downashore — compared to another reviled species: the laughing gull. Let’s face it: They can both squawk too loudly and leave their, ahem, waste behind.

But enough is enough. The ridicule is just too intense. Consider “locals only” bumper stickers, entire Facebook groups devoted to poking fun at visitors, a handmade sign affixed to a tree along Route 47 that read “Shoobies go home.” All this for a group of people whose summertime demands are, when it comes down to it, quite humble: a tan, some funnel cake, perhaps a hermit crab with a little bit of personality.

As a Philly native who now lives in Cape May, I think the time has come to take a stand. I’ve got some things to say to the Shoobie crowd. …

OK, I’ll cop to it: I’ve chuckled at your farmer’s tans and rolled my eyes behind your back after more than a few of your beach-day faux pas. But I’m not proud of it. When I’ve finished passive-aggressively glaring at one of you for shaking out a towel upwind of fellow sunbathers (seriously — how do you not realize you’re sand-blasting your neighbor?!), I have to admit: You get a raw deal.

Sure, you do appear to wander mindlessly into traffic while you’re here, as though this place were Disneyland (what is up with that?). And, yes, some of you can be a bit … high-strung, let’s say. You get your board shorts in a twist if the bike shop runs out of surreys, which are way more work and way less fun than they look, anyway. Many of you turn red — or more red, if you’re sunburnt — when your soft serve takes too long or your crabs are a little short on Old Bay seasoning. And a lifeguard friend once told me a disgruntled tourist demanded to know what his beach patrol planned to do about — wait for it — all the jellyfish.

But, hey, I get it. You’re spending your finite leisure time and likely a big chunk of your savings on this Jersey Shore trip (thanks for driving our economy, by the way), and small disappointments in this context can feel outlandishly large.

Besides, you’re not all hard to please. Just like racism or sexism demeans an entire group of people with tired stereotypes, lesser-known tourist-ism generalizes the Shoobie community based on reductive tropes. Your fashion choices, for instance, may be good for a cheap laugh, but it’s time we locals admit very few of you actually still sport socks with sandals on the beach, and those who do should be commended for the sheer conviction of this choice.

Don’t tell my fellow Shore residents I’m saying this, but there exists a great variety within your demographic, just as there’s a great variety among, say, boardwalk food. To lump you all together would be like conflating curly fries (amazing) and caramel popcorn (an abomination). Some of you may be clueless, but many more of you live by the unassailable truths of the beach: Only losers leave trash behind. Handling a horseshoe crab by its tail is a cardinal sin. And all umbrellas need to be inserted into the sand at a 30-degree angle so they don’t go airborne and harpoon a sunbather. (No, really — I checked with a physicist who studies these things!)

Here’s the bad news: Just as Philly fans are viewed through a more critical lens than those who did NOT launch snowballs at Santa Claus decades ago, Shoobies will forever be under a microscope — warranted or not. This may be unfair, but socio-cultural tensions don’t erode as easily as sand dunes. Along with Skee-Ball and seagulls, the tourist/local divide is merely a given at the beach.

But, if you promise to be good sports about all this, I promise we locals will lay off a bit. After all, seeing the Shore anew through your eyes every season — witnessing how you gasp at each dolphin sighting or grow mesmerized by every sunset — is a nice reminder of just how special this place truly is. And for that, we owe you.

Let’s face it: Whether we live in this state or we opt to spend our vacation dollars here (thanks again for that), we are — all of us — choosing the Jersey Shore. And that alone bonds us together as brothers and sisters in what is perhaps the luckiest, most misunderstood and derided of clubs this side of the Ben Franklin Bridge. When it comes down to it, they’re not all that different, your camp and mine. We all eat our Chipwiches one bite at a time.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: Cheers to you, Shoobies. This season, let’s layer on the zinc, hoist those (angled) umbrellas, and raise a toast to our mutual happy place ... and all the people who love it.

Except the ones who leave trash behind. Those Shoobies really are the worst.

Diane Stopyra is a freelance journalist living, surfing, and adopting too many dogs in Cape May.