James Ruggia | July 31, 2015 1:15 PM ET
Where the Wild Oats Are
Early this summer, as I walked through Hoboken on my way home to Jersey City, I came upon a young woman, about 27 or 28 years old, squatting in front of a closed store on the city’s main drag and relieving herself quite unabashedly on the WELCOME mat.
By way of asking her where she lived, I explained that I wanted the chance to pee on her doorstep. She then flipped me what my 9th grade Latin teacher would call the old “digita impudica,” meaning the digit without shame, virtue or modesty — that middle one. Crowds of young unruly drinkers is the price Hoboken pays for the success of its fabulous bar scene and the city’s famous boast that it has more bars per square mile than any other American town.
By all accounts, Mallorca, like Hoboken, is a beautiful place. Among the most beautiful resort islands in the Mediterranean, most of Mallorca’s visitors enjoy the beach, the food, the romance and the overflowing flower boxes of Palma de Mallorca. Unfortunately, Mallorca’s Magaluf Beach has become a magnet for young rowdy tourists who call the beach, “Shagalove.”
At night, the beach has become a promenade for foul-mouthed swaggering drunken sluggoes and their gals, who by day, from time to time use that sunlit strand to put on a live show for all the other bathers to watch.
The newspapers of Spain and Britain have been reporting on what seems to be a new outrage every week. This week produced a video of a British couple having “at it” on a “sunlounger” chair on the beach, amidst the tanning masses. You may be thinking that there are far worse stories in the news these days. Maybe so, but last year a video circulated of a teenaged girl “servicing” 24 men. She claimed she was only trying to earn free drinks.
Tired of waiting for a wrathful god to smite these naughty boys and girls, or at least to turn them into pillars of salt, the Spanish authorities have decided to take matters into their own hands with a series of new rules. Police have banned drinking on the street between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.; organized pub crawls are being more closely monitored; $782 fines will be issued for urinating on the street; and $3,300 fines for those who leap from one balcony to another or into a hotel pool from on high.
Local police and politicians may promise to crack down on naughty tourists, but in the real world, Magaluf Beach relies on the money those tourists bring in and, just like the bar owners of Hoboken, Magaluf’s cadre of mass tourism stakeholders constitutes a power block that’s counting cash too fast to really care about local sensitivities. The municipality of Calvià, home of Magaluf, is among the richest in Spain mostly because of the wild crowds that go there.
It’s got to leave a bitter taste in Spanish mouths. That record 65 million tourist arrivals that Spain received last year was a life saver tossed to an economy awash in a sea of red ink. Like Greece, Spain finds its culture, its work ethic and its very core of values called into question by talking financial heads, wagging stern financial fingers from the very same countries that the rowdy beach tourists come from.
It’s easy to understand how the boorish behavior of young tourists from prosperous countries becomes a sort of balancing narrative. “We may be broke,” you can hear people thinking, “but at least we still carry ourselves with pride while your tourists, etc. etc.”
When it comes to misbehaving, I’m of the Harry Truman school of “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.” If you’re not hurting anyone, then proceed with your silly lampshade. Young people don’t want to wake up old one day without any thrilling memories to make taking out the trash and mowing the lawn more palatable. I get it, but still, it seems to me that the fist meets the nose on Magaluf Beach when the actual people who live in that community, who grew up in that community and who are not prospering from all that brisk bar trade have to watch the very setting of their lives transformed into something they consider grotesque and insulting.
As for the drunken lovers who swagger through the streets, vomit in the flowerboxes and shout profanities in order to clear a space of terror around them as they cut through the crowds, let’s be clear their behavior is an insult that reflects in every way a complete disrespect for the people of Mallorca and Spain. They’re peeing on the BIEN VENIDO mat.
Las Vegas came up with the phrase “Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” And that’s OK because most of what happens in Vegas happens in hotel rooms, because they’re air-conditioned. Still that “whatever happens” attitude gets applied by some travelers when they find themselves in places where they feel entitled to do whatever they want, whether they’re in Magaluf, Fort Lauderdale or Pat Pong.
And it’s true. What happens on Magaluf Beach stays on Magaluf Beach and doesn’t follow that wild man home to his respectable community. It’s not sitting there next to him at the job interview as he tries to cover his neck tattoos with high-roll collars. But for all of those people, who “he’ll never see again anyway,” the memory of his indiscretions live on, and what’s worse is that the tradition of disrespect he contributed to with his vulgar and contemptuous behavior.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a place where naughty children could act out their excesses? J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, called it Never Never Land for a reason. There simply aren’t places where people are OK with their families being exposed to brawling, bratty and finally, idiotic behavior.
So here’s a sincere plea to the wilding crowds at Magaluf and to that young lady squatting in Hoboken. When you urinate all over a WELCOME mat, the hosts are unlikely to allow other visitors into their homes after they’ve wiped their feet on it.
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