Sunday, July 11, 2010

Report from the Mississippi coast

We drove down Route 90 along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi.  While the thermometer read 91 degrees, the breeze off the Gulf made the sun seem deceptively cool.  One would think this would be perfect beach-going weather but there were remarkably few people enjoying the expanses of white sand for recreation.

We saw a total of six sunbathers in swim trunks before we hit Gulfport and, after that, there were a smattering of families and tanning enthusiasts centered around the umbrella and chaise lounge establishments set up along the shore.  There were other people on the beaches, however.

Work crews dressed in blue jeans and high visibility vests like road construction crew flagmen wear, walked the tide line and clustered under nylon cabanas.  They were smoking and joking.  We assumed they are clean up crews on hand for the BP oil spill disaster.  They were outfitted with plastic snow shovels and clear, polyethylene bags.  They didn't seem to be employed in any oil spill clean up so much as beach cleanup.  The bags weren't full of much beyond handfuls of sand, maybe a few cigarette butts and shells, some skeins of dried seaweed.

There are plenty of workers but little work being done or to be done.  Most of them were taking shade under their makeshift tents.  If they are on the BP payroll, it may be an act of civic preparedness, it may be a boondoggle, or may be public relations.  Maybe they are municipal employees who are always on hand in this number at this time of year.   It seems like a large maintenance crew for beaches where the groundskeepers outnumber the visitors a hundred and twenty to one.  Buses idle in parking lots with the A/C running while the driver takes a siesta with a newspaper over his face.

We stopped at a fishing pier and went out to the end to eat a picnic lunch.  The water, to our untrained eyes, is oil-free for the moment.  This isn't to say that doom isn't due to wash up any day.  It is.  What is   mind-boggling is the idle manpower passing the time while there is critical work to be done elsewhere in the Gulf.  Those buses can go anywhere, after all.

This is just two people's weekend observation for what it is worth.  These are presumably BP's dollars at work rather than the taxpayers' but still, this money could be more wisely spent and these people better employed.

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