Expressway: Sun, sand, surf -- and no cellphones

Throngs fill Jones Beach on July 28,1940; at Throngs fill Jones Beach on July 28,1940; at that time this section was called East Beach. Photo Credit: New York State Parks, Recreation

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The other day I read about a pilot program to provide free Wi-Fi at four New York State parks, including Jones Beach. I know Wi-Fi and people on their phones everywhere are becoming the norm, but I innocently thought that some places would remain sacred.

I had hoped Jones Beach would be one of them.

The news story reminded me of a visit to the beach earlier this summer when I observed something incredible -- families talking, playing, reading and appreciating each other's company with no cellphones or tablets in sight.

Sitting with my husband a little to the east of Field 6, where it isn't as congested, I watched a family of five erect a small tent for the kids and then plop themselves down to build sand castles.

To the right, two girls enjoyed a game of Frisbee.

To the left, two adults and three kids played Wiffle ball. Giggles lingered in the air as they sprayed sand in different directions.

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Smiling, I was delighted to realize all of them were having fun without social media.

Men and women ate lunch and conversed, sat and read hardcover books, or just slept and meditated.

Others rushed into the chilly ocean shrieking with delight. Children and adults collected seashells and sorted them in plastic pails.

I didn't see a single selfie being taken.

Lifeguards stood on their chairs, paying close attention to swimmers. For a lifeguard, the distraction of an electronic device could mean danger for others.

Down the beach, an older gentleman combed the sand with a metal detector -- perhaps looking for lost smartphones.

Several women fed seagulls while others looked at faraway boats through binoculars. One lucky man was buried by his granddaughter, enjoying himself while giving instructions where not to put too much sand.

The scene generated memories of childhood summers when I would spend the whole day at this same beach until I was bushed. I would play outdoors in Massapequa along with my friends until dusk, when our moms would open the doors to call us in. Watching our beloved TV programs before we went to sleep was a huge treat. Sometimes we would ask for a few extra minutes while we ran around the backyard catching fireflies. Then we would wake up the following day and do it all over again.

I thought to myself, perhaps families today can learn to play more with each other, talk more with each other and put those phones down.

Wouldn't it be great if a kid actually called for a friend by going to his or her house instead of checking Facebook to see if the playmate is available?

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Wouldn't it be great to go to a movie without noticing dozens of vibrating devices, or shop at the market without hearing about somebody's gallbladder operation? I got lost in all the possibilities.

Then I strolled up to the beach concession stand to order a hot dog. The teen behind the counter was looking down at her phone, texting. She asked me to give her a minute.

Oh well, I can dream, can't I?

Cheryl A. Wadsworth lives in North Massapequa.

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