Getting Tough On Hogging

At one of the beaches on Spain’s sun coast, police have decided to address one of the most irritating activities of our time — beach hogging.

We’ve all seen it.  You go to a beach or a nice pool at a resort and when you get there someone has placed towels on the prime spots or best lounge chairs.  Sometimes they’ve leave something small and easily replaced, like a cheap pair of sunglasses, an almost empty bottle of suntan lotion, or an old canvas bag, to better mark their territory.

The people themselves are not there, and might not be there for hours — but you know if you sat in their pristine chair or moved their empty towel and sat there instead, they would come and act all huffy and offended, as if some inviolable natural law of the universe allowed them to forever lay claim to the spot simply by placing a towel there at 6:30 a.m. even if they don’t come back to actually get some sun until 2 p.m.

The Spanish police are dealing with this unseemly behavior by confiscating the spot-reserving stuff left by the beach hoggers and making them pay a 30 Euro fine if they want to get it back.  And to make sure that everyone has plenty of notice, they are handing out leaflets to tourists to advise everyone of the anti-hogging policy.

This no doubt seems like a small thing, and some will argue that police should be spending their time focusing on more important things like catching thieves.  Of course, no one is arguing that police should ignore such crimes, but policing annoying behavior that unfairly limits the ability of others to enjoy a public space like a beach is important, too.

Hogging behavior is exasperating, and it is spreading from beach and poolside chairs to other parts of our daily lives in public places — where people try to “reserve” the prime seats at a high school graduation ceremony by leaving programs there the night before, or put orange cones on grassy patches of devil’s strip along the parade route, or block off “their” parking spots on a public street.  Such hoggish behavior threatens our social compact.  It’s about time that we followed Spain’s salutary example and stood up to such boorish overreaching and acquisitiveness.