It’s the Monday of spring break. We’ve been walking for about an hour along the sandy coast making our way to the infamous party beach we’ve heard so much of.
On our way there, the group somehow doubles — we now have a posse. Some kid is pouring Four Loko on a dead a crab. The guy from Yale we met earlier is shouting, “I can see her dick!” as a chick in a bikini makes her way into the water. A Christian group in matching t-shirts is talking to passersby in a tent, handing out free water, bracelets and tacit judgments disguised as a free pancake event where you’ll surely be told of ‘The Good News.’ This is Panama City Beach. Not sure how it happened, but it did.
Maybe it was just bound to. For some of my fraternity brothers and I who had never been through the “traditional” spring break experience, PCB was now or never.
We pulled the trigger and found ourselves at the Flamingo Motel for the week, with beachfront and the company of plenty of other college students. Almost immediately after arriving, a guy drunkenly stumbled into our room. That’s how it goes in Panama City. It’s to be expected when PCB went from a family vacation spot in the 90s to the infamous spring break capital of the world it is today — or really, of the Midwest and the South. If there’s one thing that fascinated me most while in Panama City, Fla., though, it was the kids from Dixie.
I’ve been to various parts of the country. Before arriving in PCB, I’d met people from the South. But I didn’t really get it until I spent a week surrounded by kids on spring break from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.
After apparently offending Alabama students by not knowing that their campus is in Tuscaloosa, we went on to meet other equally charming southerners. For one, there was the Texan version of Jimmy Tatro — who, on the first day we met him, was drunkenly sporting a classic Borat mankini. Or the golden Clemson fratstar that looked straight out of a Southern Tide catalog. Now ratchet it up by varying degrees and you get a good amount of PCB, its beaches and its nightlife.
To be clear, it wasn’t all Southern Frat Move (though from Grindr, you might not guess it.) The diversity of people assembled for the sole purpose of getting screwed up was as impressive as it was obnoxious.
For all the alcohol and drug-fueled no man’s land that PCB can be, I can’t say I regret it. Sure there was drama. Sure, there were casualties. But ultimately it all pales in comparison to those late night conversations on the beach with your friends about where you come from, where you’re going and where you’re at. Yeah, the party beach was fun. It still doesn’t compare to actually getting to know the people you call friends. All things considered, PCB — if you can survive it — is college at its worst and at its finest.