In the August issue of Consumer Reports, the real-world testing laboratory of meaningful material items such as cars, televisions and cellphones turns its attention to the extremely extemporaneous: the beach bag.
Admit it. For a seemingly boring item, everyone in this corner of the country owns two or maybe three, including one from a company picnic embroidered with your corporate logo.
We use the bags to carry our sand shovels, Frisbees and copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But the Consumer Reports test went beyond the basics. The magazine evaluated bags that I’ve yet to spot at our esteemed beaches. These are bags for the most precious of cargo, specifically for your babies: your cellphone and your tablet.
“Special bags that makers claim offer maximum protection,” the report reads. “Some with features that include headphone jacks.”
Ooh. Headphone jacks.
The “maximum protection” the report is referring to is from sand and brackish water, and this region has every reason to fear sand and brackish water.
National news from Hampton Roads regularly shows rivers seeping into people’s homes and streets flooding like Venice. With global warming, water is rising at something like 1 foot an hour. And even with super-awesome $500 multi-cyclonic vacuums, sand from a day at the beach never fully comes out of the car mats.
Think of what that gunk would do to the precious iDevice. Not good.
I get that. I understand the primal need for a beach bag to keep our electronics safe.
I also get that the beach is a place to see and be seen. That unfortunately means the most-niche, most-narrow-of-use gear is not just stylish, it is necessary conspicuous consumption.
No day at the beach is complete without a chair, a book, food, Capri Sun, Capri Sun opener, gluten-free snacks, an umbrella, an extra shirt, flip-flops for the sand, flip-flops for the water, a Frisbee, a Frisbee for the dog, a metal detector and a uranium-mining drill.
The beach stopped being simple a long time ago.
Did I forget to mention a towel – actually, a towel to sit on, another to wipe my feet off with so as not to drag so much sand into the car? And, of course, a wheelbarrow to haul the mountain of stuff to and from the beach?
There is a whole economy based on this plastic-y, foamy, floaty stuff and it is an economy that thrives in Hampton Roads and its bountiful shorelines.
But our inability to detach is disappointing. The beauty of the beach is to get back to nature – to get back to simplicity, to enjoy life in its least complex form. Enjoy the sun. Enjoy the waves.
Have you ever wondered why so many stupid light-beer commercials are set at the beach? Because it’s thought to be the ultimate in relaxation.
You do nothing. Nap. Snack. Chat. Play games. Drill for uranium.
The idea is not to live on the beach, not to set up a home office with all the accommodations of everyday life.
But the marketplace and the beach-wheelbarrow crowd are convinced otherwise. They need a bag for their electronics.
Consumer Reports examined the $38 DryCase Tablet, the $16 TrendyDigital WaterGuard Waterproof case and the Lavod LMB-011 Waterproof bag. By their names alone, I want nothing to do with them. I want nothing to do with the people who buy them.
I want less stuff at the beach, not more.
The best way to keep your electronic device safe is to leave it in the car.
If not having an electronics beach bag means not having a phone or tablet or computing device of your choice readily available, if it means not snapping photos of the seashore and instantly sending them to your friends in cubicle farms or the Plain states, well that’s a sacrifice we’ll have to make.
Or we can use what Consumer Reports recommends as the most affordable option: a 13-cent Hefty Slider bag.