Monday, January 18, 2010

Phi Beta Kappa

Sunday afternoon I took a later-than-usual walk on the beach. It had rained earlier in the day, and fog had rolled in. Overnight, it seemed, the ocean had morphed from a quiet and tranquil friend to an angry, overwrought adversary. I walked from the lifeguard beach and headed south into the wind. As I approached the airport ramp I noticed a small sedan stuck in the soft sand just a few feet onto the beach. It is always tourists who get stuck. They think they can drive in the sand with two-wheel-drive vehicles.

I walked up to the car and offered to call Jesse's towing service for them But they didn't want to spend the money. They were two college age young men from South Carolina. Someone had already agreed to fetch them a tow rope. Then I guess they were planning to wait for a good Samaritan with a four-wheel-drive vehicle to pull them out.

"If you let me drive," I offered, "and you two push, I think we can get her out. It's only a few feet back to the hard packed ramp."

"But it's bottomed out," one of them said.

Sure enough, the car was down on the chassis. But they hadn't spun their wheels, so they weren't mired up to the hubs. And the car was small and light. I scooped some sand away from the back of the front tires; the rear tires were sitting on top of the sand. They handed me the keys. I started her up and put her in reverse. Very gently I pressed down on the accelerator. With them pushing we moved about eight or ten feet, then came to a halt.

After a little more scooping we tried again. Now we had Bert to help push also. In no time at all we were back on the firm ramp.

"Thank you!" they both said as I handed them their keys and they settled into the car.

"Oh, one more thing," I suggested as they were closing the doors. "I'd cover up that Phi Beta Kappa decal in your rear window!"

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter discusses place names on Ocracoke. You can read it here:


  1. Debbie Leonard7:55 AM

    Funny story!

  2. Dingbatters......

  3. Anonymous9:24 AM

    That is hilarious - all the "book learning" in the world can't make up for a lack of common sense!

  4. Anonymous9:25 AM

    They probably walk down Back Road in the raodway and will not get out of your way also. Now that was one of those things that Sigma would go on about among other things. Have a good week Phillip. David

  5. Anonymous9:51 AM

    I guess they did not have AAA and if they did is there a AAA affiliate on the Island?

  6. Anonymous9:53 AM

    They could have been sociology students and were testing the willingness of Island residents in the Random Act of Kindness department. This talk of neighborliness and such they wanted to see if it was lip service or not.

    For example teenagers and Knives

  7. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Happens on this end of the state also, Snow Skiers come to the mtns wanting snow on the slopes, but don't know how to drive in it on the roads!

  8. I can remember visiting and living other places (Guatemala, Hungary, Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation in Montana) and making faux pas because I was so unfamiliar with the customs, traditions, weather, food, geography, etc. So I didn't really mean to make any negative statement about the two college kids (after all how were they supposed to know...maybe they'd never been to the beach before). They were actually very cordial and even smiled when I made the comment about the Phi Beta Kappa decal (I have to admit I just thought I was being rather clever!). I'm sure they learned from their mistake, just like I learned never again to dance with a costumed drunk at a street fiesta in a small village in Guatemala (though I never did learn why I shouldn't have done it)!

  9. Phi Beta Kappa? Not them goofs;
    I'll take my orders from the Whiffenpoofs.
    --Old Yale song.

  10. Anonymous4:17 PM

    Some people forget the stress the young people of today have in getting through school. Some teachers are just marking time then there are those dedicated souls that help students and inspire students. ( Need I mention Columbine and Virginia tech) Everyday is an education for anybody. my hats off to those students who achieved such academic goals. THE SAT and the ACT did not exist several decades ago and in Abe Lincolns time to be a lawyer you just had to have a lawyer take you under their wing --as to the Decline of higher education it is with us.

  11. Is this a true story? Phi Beta Kappa does not produce or sell decals with its logo, and from a quick Google search, I can't find third-party vendors selling them either.

    And by the way, getting your car out of such a situation has absolutely no relation to a person's qualifications to be in PBK. It's like making fun of professors who are no doubt intelligent people and experts in their fields, but have trouble with the latest technology. Irrelevant and unfair.

  12. This is a true story. They had the Greek letters (phi, beta, kappa) in the rear window. Of course, you are correct...getting stuck in the sand has absolutely no relation to a person's qualifications to be in Phi Beta Kappa.

    Nor is a sense of humor a qualification to be in that elite fraternity. Nevertheless, even those students thought it was funny.

    1. Hm, I can easily believe this situation happened, but that maybe you read the Greek letters wrong (and the students could have laughed out of politeness). Just can't find that decal anywhere--I've wanted to purchase it for some time since the society's an honor of which to be a part. In any case, I guess my sense of humor doesn't encompass the kind of humor in this story. I was pretty embarrassed when *I* did something stupid with my car and a nice person helped me; joking about my intelligence wouldn't have helped my embarrassment in that situation, but we are all different people.

      Most importantly, it was nice of you to help these students and that everyone involved was a good sport. Kudos to you for that.


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