Nothing can spoil your trip to the beach faster than an unwelcome surprise: an injury, a broken-down car, a sick pet or even a brush with the law. But in Ocean City, there's almost always a cure for whatever ails you.
If you're faced with a life-threatening emergency, do what you would do at home: dial 911. Ocean City's police, fire and ambulance service are always nearby -- which is one of the nicest things about vacationing in a town that's only 10 miles long.
In a beach emergency, you're in the capable hands of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. Lifeguards are positioned every 200 meters along the beach in summer, and they are trained to recognize and rescue swimmers in distress and perform CPR or first aid if necessary.
They're equipped with semaphore signaling and radios, forming an end-to-end beach network which, among other things, located 1,000 lost children last summer. They also can summon an emergency medical technician for swimmers or sunbathers who are injured or who suddenly become ill.
For virtually every kind of crisis, someone in Ocean City can help. All you need to know is who to call.
Unfortunately, one favorite service among vacationers -- the Doctors Housecall Network -- has become a victim of its own popularity and no longer makes house calls.
"We got so busy, we couldn't cover both ends," explains Barbara Horn, office manager of the 75th Street Medical Center, which provided the service the past three summers. The medical center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, during the summer season. No appointment is necessary. For information, call 524-0075.
During the season, around-the-clock service also is provided by the Peninsula General Health Services center at 66th Street and Coastal Highway (524-4300) and the 93rd Street Medical Center (524-SICK). Daytime health problems can be treated at the Ocean City Medical Center, located at 10th Street and Philadelphia Avenue (289-6241) or the Coastal Medical Center at 6300 Coastal Highway (524-WELL).
Although a campaign is under way to fund a new hospital in Berlin, patients with serious injuries or illnesses now are transported by ambulance or helicopter to Peninsula General Medical Center in Salisbury for treatment.
Just like the holidays, vacations often can be stressful for people with emotional problems. They may find themselves depressed amid a sea of happy tourists, or may consider indulging in an addiction they've been trying to beat.
"I remember a client who was vacationing here from New York, calling in tears," says Margaret DePriest, a licensed clinical social worker who operates the Coastal Therapy Center. "I see people on an emergency basis, and also do counseling for young people who come down to work here for the season and find themselves having problems." Her number is 250-1196.
The Worcester County Health Department provides a number of services for people whose mental health problems won't wait until they're back at home. Call 289-LIVE for referral to the county's drug, alcohol or AIDS counseling.
Ocean City also has regular meetings of many self-help groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon. For a schedule of meetings, call 289-6400.
You packed your swimsuit, you packed your suntan lotion, you even packed that trashy novel you've been waiting to tear into. But you forgot the medication you absolutely must take every day. Stanley McCabe knows you.
"It happens all the time," says the druggist at Bailey's Pharmacy, which is located at Eighth Street and Philadelphia Avenue (289-8191). If you have refills left on the prescription, Bailey's can call your pharmacy back home and get a copy. If not, they'll try to contact your doctor. Another option: If you patronize a chain like Rite Aid back home, the local outlet may be able to punch up your prescription on their computer.
Other Ocean City pharmacies:
Edgehill Pharmacy, 143rd Street and Coastal Highway, 250-1819.
Peoples Drug, 119th Street and Coastal Highway, 524-5101.
Thrift Drug, 94th Street in the Ocean Plaza Mall, 723-2425.
Rite Aid, 115th Street and Coastal Highway, 524-3700.
If that nagging toothache is keeping you from really sinking your teeth into your vacation, you may want to visit the local dentist. Here are a few who welcome vacation visitors:
The 43rd Street Dental Center at 289-8828 is open seven days a week during the summer. The hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends by appointment.
Dr. Dennis Alban (250-1559) has office hours at 13901 Coastal Highway Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Armand Hall, D.D.S. (289-1010) has hours in West Ocean City seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Gerard F. Ott, D.M.D., and Charles G. Haynes, D.D.S., see patients in Berlin Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Robert Swanson, D.D.S., "the only orthodontist between here and Salisbury," according to his office, has hours Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 289-5772 for an appointment. The office is at 12449 Ocean Gateway.
In an unfamiliar setting, small children can become victims of their own curiosity. If your child swallows something he shouldn't while you're vacationing in Ocean City, you may want to call the Maryland Poison Center at 1-800-492-2414. When you call, have on hand the child's age, weight and medical history as well as information about what was swallowed. A certified poison information specialist will instruct you in how to help.
For chiropractic care, try the Conway Family Chiropractic office at 6300 Coastal Highway. Office hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and patients are seen Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday by appointment. For info, call 524-6290.
Help for your aching back is also available from the Ocean City Chiropractic Clinic, located next to White Marlin Mall in West Ocean City. It's open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays during the summer from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They also have 24-hour emergency service. The number is 289-1233.
If you forget to bring your eyeglasses or lose one of your contact lenses, you can get quick replacements for many prescriptions from Accurate Optical in the Ocean Plaza Mall (524-0220) or Eyesite in West O.C.'s White Marlin Mall (289-3000). Expect to pay for an eye exam if you don't have a copy of your prescription with you.
Most hotels, motels and condominiums in Ocean City don't allow animals, so be sure to ask in advance if your pet will be welcome. The Berlin Animal Hospital boards hundreds of animals each year who were brought to the beach by owners who thought they could sneak their pets into their rooms, says veterinary assistant Debbie Palmer.
Result: The dogs and cats spend their vacations in a kennel cage while their owners spend a miserable time worrying about them.
If you do find a way to bring your pet to the beach, bring a sturdy leash, any special medication or food the animal requires, and a medical history including immunization records from your regular vet.
The Berlin Animal Hospital has 24-hour emergency service seven days a week. Call 641-1841.
Other resources: Seashore Veterinary Services will make house calls, 24 hours a day if there's an emergency. Call them at 352-3343.
The Ocean City Animal Hospital is located on U.S. 50 west of Ocean City. Call 289-8256.
Most vacationers in Ocean City arrive by auto and are at least 100 miles away from home. So a broken-down car can bring the vacation to a screeching stop. These shops all offer towing service and repairs. Many have 24-hour emergency service as well.
Anderson's Exxon at 52nd and Coastal Highway, 524-7991.
Atlantic Towing & Repair on U.S. 50 in West O.C., 289-7669.
Bridge Texaco at Philadelphia Avenue and Division Street, just on the O.C. side of the U.S. 50 bridge, 289-9250.
Wittmyer Towing & Auto Repair, Keyser Point Road, 289-2422.
Should you find yourself on the wrong side of Ocean City's noise ordinances, beach sleeping prohibitions or other laws, you may need to call the Maryland State Bar Association's lawyer referral service at 800-492-1993. Bail bond offices surround the Ocean City police station and district court. If you only have one phone call, you may want to use it on ABBA bail bonds, 289-FREE, or Anchor Bail Bonds, 289-2440.
Whatever kind of bind you find yourself in during your vacation, you'll need money to get help. If you have the money in your checking account, you can cash a check at these locations: Blake's Check Cashing, Dorchester Street and Baltimore Avenue; Coastal Check Cashing, 6701 Coast Highway; Quick Cash Center at 9300 Coastal Highway; or the Village Market at 1816 Philadelphia Avenue.
There are automated teller machines along Coastal Highway, including these intersections: 15th Street, 34th Street, 44th Street, 79th Street, 94th Street, 120th Street, 125th Street, 128th Street and 145th Street. There's also a money machine on the boardwalk at Eighth Street.
If your checking account won't cover you, most Ocean City banks will let you charge a cash advance to your credit card. You'll need proper identification, and, of course, you're subject to the credit balance you have available.
If you don't have the money or a credit card but someone back home does, you can visit a Western Union office and have money wired to you. The offices are at 108 South Baltimore Avenue (289-3290) and at the Super Fresh supermarkets on Coastal Highway at 95th Street (723-0111) or Coastal Highway and 115th Street (524-5387).