I love Huntington Beach. I love everything about it, and I say that with the utmost sincerity. I've lived in Surf City all of my life. My kids went to Huntington Beach High School and so did I. To my surprise, I discovered that many of their friends from school had familiar last names. That's because their parents were classmates of mine. Class of 1977 — go Oilers!
Now that I've disclosed my age, it's pretty obvious that I have resided in HB for a substantial amount of time. This automatically entitles me to exercise bragging rights and annoy any family or friends who happen to be less fortunate than myself by living in the Midwest, or even better, the Arctic blast mecca of the extreme eastern seaboard.
I just couldn't resist the chance to gloat shamelessly about our gorgeous weather this past week. As the local weather person predicted, it has been nothing less than perfection — temperatures in the 80s, offshore Santa Ana winds, crystal blue skies and snow-capped mountain views for days on end.. So I just had to reach out and irritate.
My new favorite tool of torture is Skype. Not only do my loved ones have to hear about me sitting on my penthouse patio in my bikini (OK, that's a stretch, but it works), sipping a cool adult beverage on my chaise lounge overlooking beautiful downtown Huntington Beach, but I can actually draw them in via my laptop and let them see and feel for themselves what they're missing. I've become so obnoxious in my endeavor to evoke envy that they've begun to avoid my phone calls! Imagine that. How dare they?
But when my objects of endearment do slip up and don't check their caller ID, I don't hesitate to start the conversation with something like, "Can you believe this weather we're having? Hey, check it out. I was just thinking about walking to the beach. In mid-January. In my flip-flops. The beach, two blocks, in the dead of winter." They usually reciprocate in a bitter tone about how expensive our cost of living is or how shallow people are in Southern California, but what they're really saying is, "You lucky devil. I had to shovel three feet of snow just to get out of the driveway this morning! Then I couldn't get my car key in the door because the lock was frozen solid."
And the weather has been more beautiful every day. This past weekend felt more like the middle of summer than mid-winter. Friday evening, it seemed as if everyone was anxious to shed their winter wardrobe (the one we keep taking out of storage and putting away again) and walk around downtown with little more than a sweater. My aforementioned relatives absolutely go crazy when I talk about "sweater weather."
I can hear the grinding and gnashing of teeth as they picture me skipping down Main Street, checking out next summer's latest beach fashions. Meanwhile, their thermal underwear is becoming threadbare due to overuse. They can watch television through the once-thick cotton fabric. They're spending Friday night deciding if they can make it to the end of winter (long way off) using the same ragged pair or give up the fight and head to Sears for another pair of "old faithful."
Sunday was a perfect occasion to use my unlimited weekend minutes. I stepped out into the blazing sunshine from a well-known sports establishment that just happens to have a bird's-eye view of the ocean. I had been watching the Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers game inside, and suddenly it donned on me: What another perfect opportunity to give a ringy-dingy to my kin. They answered! I'll have to admit I was a bit shocked, considering they had to know the reason for my call.
"Wow, it looks absolutely freezing on that field. Those poor guys, toughing it out. No snow on the ground, but still... Hey, what are you guys doing? Did you purchase a new set of thermals yet?" I snidely remarked. No, not yet. It might "warm up" (what, to 20 degrees?) this week. They seemed strangely upbeat, but why?
Then, it came. The payback. Pittsburgh Steelers, to be exact. See, that's where all of my thin-skinned relatives reside — Pittsburgh. Football is the glue that holds them together. Hardcore Steelers fans, those folks.
The blood slowly drained from my face. The one thing they had that I couldn't come close to competing with — a football team. They turned on me with venom, like a rattler in the desert at high noon. I got nothin'. I tried to hang up once they all got on the phone.
"I have to go, I'm getting sunburned because the reflection off the ocean is so bright."
Now it was getting really ugly. There were so many of them talking at once, it started to sound like that spooky background singing from "The Exorcist," a constant chanting sending chills down my spine.
"Uh, wait, I can't hear you. I think you're breaking up." Click.
I got what I deserved. Sure, we have beautiful weather, 365 days a year pretty much. We enjoy beautiful beaches, gorgeous sunsets and a lifestyle anyone would envy. But my relatives are right. We don't have a football team to show our devotion to. They have one of the great franchises in the history of the NFL. Now they will call me at every available opportunity to reciprocate the misery I took pleasure in giving them. The Steelers are going to the Super Bowl. Good for them, really. I'm glad. They deserve it.
OK, gotta go. I hear my cell phone ringing. Guess who's on the freezing cold other side. What goes around…well, you know the rest.
ANDREA HANST is a Huntington Beach resident.