More than a quarter of a million people come to Ocean City in the summertime and thousands of them walk the 27 blocks of the Boardwalk each day. In “What Are You Doing Here?” we stop a few of them and find out what brought them to our corner of the Eastern Shore.
Meron Alemayehu arrived on the Boardwalk at the wrong time. She was bundled up in a jacket that was too large for her on a cold and overcast day. The wind whipped the hair around her face while she leaned on the railing while waiting for a friend to get off of work.
Timing hasn’t really worked out Meron. She’s been in Ocean City for a few weeks on a F1 work study visa, and the weather has been pretty cold. But she’s optimistic her luck will change.
“Man, I’m from Mississippi! It’s too cold out here for me!” Meron said with a laugh. “I’m literally waiting for summer, so I can go in the water. It’s too cold for swimming…. I can’t wait!”
Meron decided to come to the regional family-friendly resort for the same reason like other international students do: the work. But she’s different from others that hold a J1 visa that have trouble with biking on the wrong side of the street and use Ocean City has a means to explore United States treasures like D.C. or New York. She’s a junior at Jackson State University, studying business and finance. Meron is from Ethiopia, but decided to come to the United States because the schools were better than the options back home. Meron did not choose Ocean City, but rather followed her sister’s footsteps. The two came from Ethiopia together, but the sister came to the resort last summer.
“She started dating a store owner here and when she told me about it, she said it was fun, good hours and a lot of money,” Meron said.
Her older sister didn’t lie. Meron’s working 10-15 hours a day at a Boardwalk T-shirt store she can’t remember the name of. She knows it’s near Second Street, though, but they all blend together in cramped storefronts in splashes of loud colors.
“They all kind of look the same to me,” she said.
Like with this blog, Meron quickly picked up that the Boardwalk is one place where truly all types of people, from different religions, races and places, all convene in a single moment. In her brief time working in customer service, she said she came across some characters. Senior week in particular brings out some amusing interactions. Meron noticed that there’s been less than savory behavior from some eccentric customers on the Boardwalk, even though there’s signs posted everywhere saying “No Profanity” or “Keep Our Boardwalk Air Clean.”
“The craziest family that came in our store bought shirts that have “bitch one,” “bitch two,” you know, and they bought some for the whole family,” Meron said. “I’m thinking the dad was “bitch one,” and the little girl was “bitch five.” I was like, ‘What?! Ocean City’s wild.’”
Meron’s plans for the summer hopefully include taking a walk on the wild side herself.
“I want to check out the nightlife, I hear it’s pretty cool at Seacrets. I hear there’s go-karting,” she said.
But the number one priority is Ocean City’s main attraction: the beach.
“As soon as it gets hot, I’m going to be on the beach 24/7. I’m just waiting for the weather to come out. So far, it’s all living up to my expectations – it’s so beautiful and busy! I work a lot of hours, so there’s not enough of time to do things. But hopefully, I’ll make time,” she said.