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A Winter Texan's view from the inside

By Don Wierenga

Midway between the Holiday Inn and Radisson hotels, the anchor ends of spring break activity, is the Royale Beach and Tennis Club. Our 12th floor condo provides a panoramic view of beautiful South Padre Island . . . and the transformation of fun loving winter Texans to fun loving college students.

Never before has the gap seemed so great. Almost old enough to be their great-grand father, I felt as an intruder of their private world. . . an invisible spectator at their huge party. The first two weeks and I suspect the last days as well, the kids were having wholesome fun during the day; drinking a bit too much and making too much noise at night but their behavior was admirable . . I was going to enjoy this! Then came the storm!

A bolt of lightning like I have never seen before and the instantaneous thunder clap brought us all to our balconies. A few minutes later the Saida complex, Radisson and other buildings were in total darkness. Emergency generators kicked in to provide power for an elevator, the stairwells . . and the swimming pool! The scene was about to turn ugly.

College students whom just a few hours before had greeted me warmly and who showed me every respect were now screaming and throwing debris from their rooms. My silent, yet visible presence, was not a deterrent. Beer cans and cartons cascaded from the balconies, beer bottles crashed on the tennis courts and in the swimming pools, trash bags were ignited and thrown from open doors, toilet paper streamed through the air . . and the thunder and lightning . . and screaming intensified.

The eerie glow of swimming pool lights and frequent flashes of lightning illuminated security guards dashing for protection as the hail of bottles and screams of students turned nasty. A student was wrestled to the ground and hustled away and an injured guard sought medical aid. Girls shed their tops and the boys howled, fire crackers exploded. It was as if the forces of nature that had cut off their pulsating music now provided the impetus for unruly, abnormal behavior.

And then it was over. The lights came back on and students retreated to the anonymity of their rooms The cover of darkness, confusing light and sounds and alcohol had prompted behavior that would cause them to shake their heads the next morning in disbelief and wonder what had happened. Stillness prevailed and I was left to enjoy nature's most spectacular light and sound show.

So how does a parent (or grandparent) nurture a child to the point of being able to "handle" spring break or other potentially explosive combinations of events? Our voices won't do it anymore. They are too easily lost in the media and electronic frenzy. Fear of consequences has only a short term effect. Paying the price might simply mean wiping the slate clean and fostering resolve to be more devious the next time. Tolerance, respect for the opposite sex, moderation and self control are good words but how do we teach them? By example and by changing our perspective. By the impact we have on our family life, schools, churches and government, We, from the older generations need to start the process of learning to see from the perspective of others, valuing our own path and seeking its renewal but understanding and appreciating our diversity.

The Morning After

Never mind the litter strewn grounds, the broken glass in the swimming pool and hung-over kids staggering on the beach. At least one spring breaker's last days of vacation would be dramatically different. An incoherent guy with a severe cut on his chin and perhaps a broken nose was trying to explain to a security guard what had happened. The guard was calling for assistance when another student came to the sea wall fence to explain and was identified as the attacker. Fortunately the fence separated another major confrontation. More security guards, police and EMS personnel arrived, handcuffs applied and that problem was under control. Life would be much different this day than anticipated.

But what about the guy that threw the beer bottle that could have severely injured the security guard or my neighbor whose "torch" could have blown into our condo . . or the girl who raised her shirt for every guy that asked? I wonder how they feel this morning. Just another night in the life of a self centered spring breaker? Would that happen if there were a true sense of community, an honest respect for age, sexual, religious or cultural diversity?

So I guess, I want my grandsons to be taught how to handle differences. I want them to experience an (over) abundance of love and compassion and tolerance from those that surround them on a daily basis, so that it becomes perfectly natural to treat others the same way. It begins with me.

[e-mail the writer]

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