Thursday, July 26, 2018

How I Nearly Started World War III

We booked the hotel because it advertised access to a "private beach." The beach ended up being more like a stone patio that dropped off into the Adriatic Sea. It was nice enough. A bit small. But Croatian coastal towns seem to be crowded this time of year, so any access to the waves is appreciated.

Skylar and I had wandered to the water in the early afternoon. The stone patio was big enough to contain about 50 lounge chairs, all huddled closely together.

We wandered past each, looking for one that had not yet been claimed. About half of the chairs had people sitting in them. The other half had been draped with towels, most of them hotel towels, like little flags claiming territory on the moon.

Not a single lounge chair was empty, so we eventually perched ourselves on top of an uncomfortable rock.

We baked there for 20 or so minutes. I continuously scanned the patio, hoping that someone would give up a seat. But the 25 people already sitting looked like they were about to start requesting that their mail be sent there. They weren't about to go anywhere.

I saw other groups of people enter the beach patio, scan the area looking for a free spot, and then depart, disappointed.

It was about this time that I noticed that the water area in front of the hotel "beach" was roped off from neighboring waters. And in our section of swim-able sea, there were only 2 people floating around.

This meant that at least 23 of the 25 towel-draped lounge chairs had been claimed by people who had completely left the area. Not by people who had just dipped into the water for a quick swim.


I didn't want any trouble.

But this was ridiculous.

In what world is it ok to take a towel from the hotel, place it on a highly-coveted piece of furniture, and then expect that that piece of furniture would forever belong to you.

I had slightly more respect for the few people who had left backpacks or other personal items on the lounge chairs because at least they had accepted some risk in their claim-staking.

But BACK IN MY DAY, you couldn't place hotel property on top of other hotel property to keep anyone else from making use of that hotel property.



And so, even though I DIDN'T WANT ANY TROUBLE, I made an executive decision and removed two hotel towels from two hotel chairs and told Skylar to take the one next to the one I was claiming for myself.

It was freeing in a way. Like I was bringing justice to a tiny corner of Croatia.

I told myself that if someone showed up within the next 10 minutes, telling me that they just had to run to the bathroom and that this was their chair, I would have graciously conceded. I would have had a laughy conversation about how I wasn't sure if anyone was coming back and "it sure is a beautiful day!" as I picked up my things and moved one chair over and later that night we would get dinner together and one day at a party we would gather people around to tell them about this one time we had a misunderstanding on the beach and my new friend would be all "oh stop it! He's exaggerating again! I was not that mad" and I would be all "you sure seemed mad when you realized I had been wearing the sunhat you left there" and we would both laugh and everyone would really like me.

But the 10-minute scenario didn't happen.

No one showed up to tell us that we had take "their" chairs.

An hour went by. Then two. And I felt more and more validated in my decision to put these unoccupied chairs to use.

I fell asleep at some point, and I was somewhere in the middle of a dream when I felt a hand on my arm.

I opened my eyes and saw a very dissatisfied-looking woman in a sunhat. She had plopped down on the chair next to Skylar's. Skylar had left for a minute to get a drink and he had placed his backpack on his chair.

The woman pointed at the hotel towel, the one that had been on the chair when we arrived hours before and which Skylar had placed on the ground.

"That's mine." She informed me.

I pointed at Skylar's backpack and said "that's mine," because I thought maybe we were playing a game where we declared our possessions.

"This is my chair," she said, pointing to the one between us.

I was polite. I was not rude. But I did say to her, "I'm sorry. My friend is sitting here now."

She dropped the subject with me, understanding that I was immovable in my convictions. And she waited.

A minute or two later Skylar returned and took his place. The woman began her introduction anew.

"That's mine," she said, pointing to the towel.

"Oh? Do you want it," Skylar said, innocently retrieving the towel and passing it in her direction.

"No," she said. "This is my chair."

I couldn't believe she was trying to shop around for a different answer. RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. And so I intervened again. I was still polite. But I more decisively told her, "I'm sorry. My friend has been here for over two hours. This is his chair now. There are many others here that seem to have been abandoned. Maybe you could try one of those."

To her credit, she didn't push back, probably because she knew that I was bringing justice to this corner of Croatia and she greatly respected me for it.

A few minutes later she gathered her things, said a polite "goodbye" to us (to which we responded with an even more polite "have a nice day!").

Another hour or so went by. The vast majority of the towel-draped chairs were still untouched. A couple of other justice-seekers had done what we had done, apologetically removing hotel property from hotel property and occupying the chairs that had now gone a good chunk of the day unused because some thoughtless people had tried to claim them with very little intention of using them.

We were just starting to gather up our books and flip flops and backpacks to head back to the hotel when a man, somewhere in his 50s, stomped up to us and started mumbling in our direction.

He reached under one of the chairs for a floaty that I hadn't noticed until this point, barking at us that he couldn't believe "that someone would take these chairs when they had clearly been saved."

By this point it had been well over three hours, meaning that this guy had left the area at least three hours before.

Meaning that he had probably plopped a hotel towel and hotel floaty on a hotel chair sometime that morning, expecting that no one would touch it for nearly the whole day while he went out doing Croatia knows what.

And I know. I should have let it go. We were leaving anyway. It didn't matter.

Except it did matter. Because justice, you guys. JUSTICE.

I was polite when I said it. "Well, we are actually just leaving now." He cut me off and said "ok. Fine. Fine. I guess it's fine."

But I couldn't drop it. I just couldn't. So I told him, "you sound mad."

"I was a little," he told us. "But I guess it's fine, since you're leaving."

"Sir, this is a crowded beach. How can you expect people not to use these chairs just because you threw a hotel towel on them and left?"

And then he said: "I saved this. I was only gone for a few hours."




I was still polite. I was using my polite voice. And most of the patio beach was watching us at this point, because it was turning into a bit of a scene and the entire area was the size of a Soviet postage stamp.

I said "well, that's not acceptable."

I know. He was probably getting pretty scared by this point.

He cranked up the sarcasm tone ten-fold, using a mocking voice and nearly yelling, "thank you for saving my chairs for me while I was gone."

And I know you guys don't think it sounds like he was being rude but that's only because you weren't there. If you had been there you would have seen the looks he was giving us and you would have heard the very aggressive tone he was using. It wasn't the polite-yet-decisive tone I had opted for in this situation. This man loathed us, and he was making it known.

I should have let it go, but I just couldn't.

So as he wrapped the floaty around his body, which I just realized, why did this man need a floaty, I stood in an indignant-looking pose, and called out to him, "you are being very rude." And when he didn't look ashamed enough, I said it one more time, a little louder for the people in the back.

He didn't agree with me. Instead he floated away in the water, refusing to make eye contact.

As we walked away, a nearby woman who had watched the whole thing play out gave me a supportive wave. I may not have saved the world. But I threw one starfish into the sea, and it clearly mattered to that one.

~It Just Gets Stranger
The view from our balcony in Opatija Croatia.

From our hike in Slovenia.

Swimming in Lake Bled in Slovenia.

Hanging out at a 12th century castle in Krk Croatia.

Who knows.


  1. Way to take a stand! I HATE this so much. Every cruise ship I've ever been on ... this has happened. And also large church functions, etc. If I'm there and you're obviously not, especially for a long while, I win. No saving allowed.

  2. Skylar is totally grabbing your butt in the castle picture.

  3. “I was only gone for a few hours” ...really?! I mean, really?!?!! I wouldn’t expect my spot to still be there if I left for longer than it took to go to the bathroom! Is that an American thing, to not expect your “spot” to be “saved” in a public place? So strange.

    This exchange reminds me of a rude guy (technically an “older gentleman I guess, probably in his 60s) that I ran into at the grocery store a month or so ago. It was one of those places where you have to put in a quarter to unlock a cart. I’d finally finished shopping and loading my car, and I let my 5yr old lock the cart back in and keep the quarter. I’m 7 or 8 months pregnant and my 3yr old is swinging from the cart return like a monkey. I was definitely blocking the cart return while helping my kid and trying to keep an eye on the monkey. My 5yr old is slower than an adult (you know, as 5yr olds usually are) so it’s taking longer than 10 seconds. A guy walks up behind me to put his cart away. I didn’t acknowledge him because he felt “hostile”...if that makes sense. I could feel the daggers from his glare on my bacj. I hoped he would be understanding and realize I’ll be out of there in 30 seconds. But nope. He says “EXCUSE ME!!!” so I apologize for being in the way, and explain I’ve got a lot going on (gesturing to my kids). He says something about how I could “figure out how to move if I wanted to”. This situation seems to be escalating rather quickly so I don’t say anything more, but I found a way to waddle around and awkwardly stand out of his way. I thought we were done. But then!!!! He says, very sarcastically, “See?! You CAN do two things at once!” I could tell he was just grouchy and rude and nothing I said would make a difference, but I couldn’t take it. “You don’t have to be rude, sir,” I said in my calmest voice. He snaps back with, “Yeah, well you don’t have to be NASTY either! It’s not all about YOU anymore - “

    At this point I just left while he ranted, because my daughter finally accomplished her task. I didn’t want to hear him, or start a shouting match in the parking lot of the Aldi. I’ve got SOME dignity! (I then used said dignity to cry in my car for 20mins before leaving the parking lot and going home) ��

    I was so confused about his last comment though. When WAS everything all about me? And why is it not anymore?? How was accidentally blocking the cart return for 1 minute being nasty??? I’m so confused! And also very sad that someone could be so angry and full of hate for people they don’t even know, who aren’t actually trying to make their life difficult.

    1. Oh this makes me furious! Eli's story was irritating, but Rachel's story just about unleashes all of the pent up outrage I have (but I'm similar to Rachel in that the pent up outrage usually comes out in heaving sobs rather than a coherent argument).

    2. That situation was all about him and nothing about you. Children annoy him. Women annoy him. The world probably annoys him.

    3. "Children annoy him. Women annoy him. The world probably annoys him."
      Sadly there are too many people like this in the world. The ones who always feel wronged or slighted for no perceptible reason. They feel like the world owes them a favor that it never delivered. I used to get angry when I encountered those people, now they just make me feel sad. The world is a much better place when you aren't an indignant asshole all the time.

    4. Sarah and Suzzz, I’m in agreement with both of you!! I knew it had absolutely nothing to do with me, and I do feel very sad for him. But I still cried because hormones and also I don’t handle meanness very well, haha!

      My 5yo asked what happened (not because she noticed at the time, but because she was irritated about sitting in the parking lot not going anywhere haha) and it was actually a great opportunity to talk to her about how some people have bad days and use it to make other people feel bad too. And how we should be kind to everyone especially if they are rude and having a bad day! We actually got to have several variations of this conversation because for like a month afterward she kept saying “I hope we don’t see that mean guy again!” Every time we went to the store. Hahaha!

    5. Whenever anyone rudely tries to hurry me along, I take my revenge by getting slower. Much slower. Especially while driving. Hubs says I am going to get shot one day in a case of road rage but
      I will be driving too slowly for them to hit me as they whizz around me through traffic. Manners and niceities are free and people respond favorably to them. Too bad some people go through life never learning this.

  4. a few hours?! what is wrong with people. way to take a stand

  5. I'm part Croatian and have always wanted to visit Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park. Any chance you get/got to go there? The pictures I've seen on the inter-tube-y-web-nets are all of your hiking pics have been. :)

  6. In a way, I liken your chair story to when I lived in Chicago for many years. When we got a lot of snow, if you shovel out “your parking spot” on the street, you put chairs in it and NOBODY can park there. Everyone totally respects it. HOWEVER, you actually worked to get your spot. I find it very troubling for people to save chairs at a beach. I’m glad you stood up to them. I would have assumed that they were done with the chairs.

  7. So this kinda happened to us at Disney - all the empty chairs at the pool were draped with towels and after walking around looking for ones that weren't we decided that the resort put the towels on the chairs for the convenience of the patrons. At least we decided that would be the story we came up with if anyone showed up claiming we took their chairs. No one ever did but by golly I was ready to spin my tale and make them feel guilty for trying to kick us off the chairs we claimed.

  8. Gorgeous. Also, well-handled.

  9. **SLOW CLAP** You sir are a hero.

  10. The whole time I was reading your story, I thought when she said the chairs were hers, she meant they were HERS. As in, she bought them, and wanted them back but didn't want to be too rude in asking for them. Oh, I was wrong. I can just picture my older brother calling DIBS on the last soda in the fridge and then taking three days until he drank it. Dick move. Going away for hours and hours and expecting your chair is beyond rude. Going away for 15 minutes is even pusing it. Next time come with a towel imprinted, ELI'S CHAIR. I'LL BE BACK IN 10 MINUTES. OR FOUR HOURS. and put it on the chair. It's yours. For ev. er.

    1. Ahh! That would have been such a better story if in the end it turned out that they were her chairs and she was just trying to pack up to leave! Sometimes fiction is a lot better than reality.

  11. Eli, I don't comment a lot, but feel like you are a Kindred Spirit!

    Last week our teen aged daughter was performing in a pretty spectacular event (at the DeJong theater at the HFAC at BYU)-- so a big deal.

    General seating. We got there early and got good seats in the center, not too high up.

    Immediately other people start marking off big sections of seats to 'save.'
    A lady came up to me and said, "If anyone comes, tell them these seats are saved (she had about 20).
    I looked at her and said, "no. I don't care if your family sits here..." She didn't reply, I imagine she was shocked to see that everyone in the world didn't see how her tribe deserved the best seats.

    Why should I be tasked with saving seats for her family??? And more importantly, how is it fair to have someone save the good seats for people who aren't there, while the people who ARE there and have waited in line have to sit further back?

    I can see saving one or two, especially if someone's just in the bathroom or something, but several people were saving entire rows.

  12. Oooh, this sort of thing makes my blood boil! I would have been that person who removed allllll of the towels on the unoccupied chairs and put them in the towel-return area (justifying, maybe they forget to clean up after themselves ;) ). Some people are so rude!