No, no, it’s not what you think. These are two different observations that illustrate a common principle.
Years ago when I was involved with the Wilmington Trail Club I often went out with them on their weekly day hikes. The hikers were a species unto themselves, mostly scrawny old geezers and crones wearing floppy hats covered with Appalachian Trail patches, but Lord, they sure could hike, striding along in their huge, Micky Mouse boots for miles and miles on only an occasional swig of water.
The hikes always started with a pee-stop where the men would all go into one section of the woods and the women another. I have no idea how women did it, but I was struck by the way men always peed against something, usually a tree, but any marker would do—a shrub, a mound of dirt, whatever was available. I never saw a man pee in the middle of an open field.
I also once read an architectural article suggesting rooms in facilities for male Alzheimer’s patients be round, because they will pee in any corner they find. Why corners? Peeing against something seems hard-wired into men’s brains from birth, conveying some sort of an evolutionary advantage. Neanderthals did not pee against anything and where are they now?
Now, about the beach. I just returned from a week at the Outer Banks and would watch the sunrise each morning from a bench on the sand near our Kitty Hawk rental. The beach there goes on uniformly as far as can be seen without any of the familiar objects on the Jersey beaches, such as jetties, pilings, and lifeguard stands. In fact, walking the beach at the OBX—as they refer to the Outer Banks—seems pointless because the beach a mile away looks exactly like the beach where you are standing.
So, I am sitting on the bench watching the morning dog walkers parading along the surf’s edge. Dog walkers are always the first ones up on a vacation, or maybe the first one up has to walk the dog. Whatever, each was carrying a plastic bag to collect the “solid waste,” an act of devotion beyond my comprehension.
Someone the day before had left an insignificant sand castle with only one tower no more than a foot high. But that was enough on an empty beach. It was the only marker in sight. Every dog that passed by, stopped to pee on it (all were males). Lesson to be learned: Don’t touch a day-old sand castle.
Later in the day I would see the couple-walkers: men and women of various ages, or, more often, two women talking and gesturing wildly to each other. They would stride along purposely, then suddenly hesitate and look around, puzzled as they debated what to do next. They wanted to turn around, but had no reference point. At the Jersey Shore, people agree to walk to, say, the next pier or jetty, then turn around. At the Outer Banks, you could see they were indecisive without a reference point. Why turn here, rather than five steps more? Or a hundred?
My conclusion is that we all need goals in life to organize our ambitions, targets we can aim for, so-to-speak. It is not enough to vaguely say, I want to be famous, or, I want to be rich. We must say, I want to play the theremin at Carnegie Hall, or, I want to own a beach house on the OBX.
For success in any of our endeavors, we need a metaphoric sand castle to pee on.