When Glenn and I signed up to volunteer at the Least Tern Reserve, we requested weekend shifts, and were immediately given them. At the time we signed up, we were surprised to learn that nobody else had volunteered for Saturday or Sunday.
Now I know why. Weekends comprise precisely the times when the preserve needs the most protection (because the largest number of visitors are present), but this also makes it the toughest time to be a docent.
On one hand, larger numbers of beachgoers mean larger numbers of people who can be made aware of the rewards of sharing the beach with birds. This Saturday, I brought along my spotting scope, and offered views of the chicks to several burly surfers cracking lame jokes about the terns. They seemed genuinely surprised and touched. "Wow, check out those little bastards!" one of them exclaimed.
One of those little bastards
On the other hand, larger numbers of people mean a larger probability of encountering jerks who deserve to have their balls twisted off.
Now that summer is in full swing, the beach is busier than ever. We got to the reserve on Saturday about 8 a.m., and the parking lot was already almost full. On the beach, someone had already hung a towel on the front fence of reserve and nearby, a surfboard was already leaning against the flimsy front fence. We couldn't find the owners of these items and didn't want to move them ourselves, so we let it pass. We figured the guilty parties just weren't aware of the reserve rules, and we'd tell them nicely if and when we saw them.
We didn't ever see them, but we did encounter the same self-important jerk we ran into a few weeks back. He knew that the front fence was supposed to be kept clear because we specifically told him so (and told him why) the last time we saw him. So of course, he and his blond bimbo companion lean BOTH their surfboards against the fence, and hang BOTH their towels too, while looking right at us, as if to say "So what are you going to do?"
What could we do? Since there was already other stuff on the fence, we couldn't really single him out. We could have called for the badged patrol, but if they didn't think it worth their while to back us up, it would only make things worse. Besides, as our docent manual states, our job is to raise awareness and gain support, not "to be the Tern Police".
I always have to remind myself of that. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
But you know what really gets their attention? Napalm.