One day into a weeklong camping trip, 17-year-old Michael Shellenberger and his buddy, Steve Rosenberry, 18, found themselves stranded at the boardwalk -- victims of car trouble.
Although it wasn't a serious problem, Michael's mother, Shirley, became worried. After all, it was 12:30 a.m., and the boys were 20 miles from their Delaware camp site. But there was little she could do to help because she was five hours away in Chambersburg, Pa.
Had they called the police? Yes, they had talked to an officer on the boardwalk, but Ocean City police do not offer assistance to disabled motorists unless they are stuck in traffic.
Skeptical, Mrs. Shellenberger phoned the police herself. She received the same response, but she also was given the phone number of the Parent Network, a volunteer organization that helps parents and youth.
Through the Parent Network, Mrs. Shellenberger found a volunteer who drove Michael and Steve back to the campground.
"Most of the things the network deals with are much more in-depth than that," Mrs. Shellenberger said. "But as a parent, I was worried. We were five hours away and we couldn't help."
The Parent Network, in its second summer season, serves as a referral system for young people while they're visiting or working in Ocean City. The network also helps parents check on their kids, who often live in apartments without phones.
The Parent Network has 38 trained volunteers. The phone is staffed 24 hours a day and the network's services are free. The number is (410) 723-3700.
Mrs. Shellenberger's predicament illustrates just one of the unexpected problems that can occur during a vacation at the shore. No matter what the circumstance, help can be found.
hTC Ocean City Police do respond to emergency and other situations, such as excessive noise, throughout the resort, including the boardwalk. Police walk the boardwalk and maintain a station at the boardwalk and Caroline Street.
The town's well-known noise ordinance prohibits excessive noise. Lease holders can be held responsible for maintaining peace and order. If you need to make a complaint about noisemakers, call (410) 289-5459.
Police do not respond to keys in locked vehicles or disabled cars parked in motel or condo lots, said Jay Hancock, a police spokesman.
For emergencies, call 911 or (410) 289-5454; a non-emergency number is (410) 289-5459.
For help on the beach, approach one of the lifeguards, now called surf rescue technicians, or call the Ocean City Beach Patrol at (410) 289-7556.
Although Ocean City has several medical centers, none of them is open 24 hours, according to Clay Stamp, assistant director of emergency medical services.
The nearest hospital, Peninsula Regional Medical Center, is in Salisbury, about 30 miles away.
Paramedics are available in Ocean City 24 hours a day. For a medical emergency, dial 911. The town has nine paramedic units that operate out of four fire stations. The town employs 30 full-time and 12 part-time paramedics, Mr. Stamp said.
The most common medical problems among beach-goers, Mr. Stamp said, are sunburn, surf injuries, alcohol abuse and something he called the "Ocean City Syndrome," in which people sunning at the beach forgo food and liquid and later suffer dizziness and fainting.
In all activities, including crossing the Coastal Highway, vacationers need to exercise common sense, Mr. Stamp said.
"Something like sunburn seems like a minor thing," he said. "But it's an agonizing thing. It's very painful but there is little we can do to help."
Here's a list of medical centers in Ocean City:
L * 75th Street Medical, 7408 Coastal Highway, (410) 524-0075.
* 93rd Street Medical Center, 9300 Coastal Highway, (410) 524-9300.
* Coastal Medical Center, 6300 Coastal Highway, (410) 524-3200.
* Ocean City Medical Center, 10th Street and North Philadelphia Avenue, (410) 289-6241.
Hours vary at the centers. Most accept major credit cards.
Also, at the Ocean City Youth Health Center, 4 Caroline St., (410) 289-4044, a physician is on duty four hours a day. Registered nurses are on duty other hours. The center is open Tuesday through Saturday until June 22; Monday through Saturday afterward.
Besides attending to minor illnesses, the center also offers pregnancy testing and STD testing. Counselors are available 16
hours a day.
If you need emergency dental work, the following centers offer services:
* Atlantic Dental Associates, 105 58th St., (410) 524-0500.
* Dennis Alban, 139th St. and Coastal Highway, (410) 250-1559.
* 43rd Street Dental Center, 4306 Coastal Highway, (410) 289-8828.
C7 * Armand Hall, 12714 Ocean Gateway, (410) 213-1010.
Getting a prescription filled also can be a problem for vacationers.
Pharmacists suggest beachgoers come prepared: bring the prescription or the name and phone number of the prescriping doctor and information about the medication.
"Often on a weekend, a doctor is not in his office and can't remember off the top of his head what the patient takes," said Stanley McCabe, a pharmacist and owner of Bailey's Drug Store, 8th Street and Philadelphia Avenue.
Bailey's and national chain drug stores take most medical cards.
If you've forgotten your prescription and don't have specifics about the medication, the only alternative left is to visit one of the physicians in town. You'll have to pay for an office visit, of course.
While local gas stations will change flat tires and make minor repairs, motorists would be well advised to practice preventive maintenance before leaving Ocean City.
The most common problem for homebound motorists along U.S. 50 West is overheating, according to Karen Black, a spokeswoman for AAA Maryland Division.
Before leaving Ocean City, AAA recommends motorists check coolants, water, hoses and belts and tire pressure.
If your vehicle overheats on the way home, pull over and raise the hood. Do not remove the cap until engine is cool. If you see no evidence of leakage, you should be able to drive to a nearby service station. If there is leakage, your vehicle will have to be towed.
AAA provides towing service in Ocean City and on the Eastern Shore.
For towing and other repairs in Ocean City, call:
* A-1 Auto Care, White Marlin Mall, (410) 213-2273.
* Anderson's Exxon Service Station, 52nd Street and Coastal Highway, (410) 524-7991.
* Ashton Towing, 302 Sunset Drive, (410) 543-5033.
* Birch's Towing Service, Elm Street, (410) 213-1113.
* Ocean City Texaco, 1206 Philadelphia Ave., (410) 289-7740.
If money is the problem, there are 24-hour automatic banking machines throughout Ocean City, including at the following locations:
* 94th Street at Ocean Plaza Mall.
* 79th Street and Coastal Highway.
* 120th Street and Coastal Highway.
* 145th Street and Coastal Highway.
* 8th Steet on the Boardwalk.
Some hotels also have money machines in their lobbies.
Some grocery and convenience stores will cash payrolls checks. Some require that you make purchases. There are a few other firms that offer check cashing services. Check the yellow pages.
You also can have money wired to you through Western Union, which has offices at Super Fresh, 11531 Coastal Highway and 9507 Coastal Highway. Or call (800) 634-1311 for other area locations.
There is no limit on the amount of money that can be wired. You will need to show identification to pick up money. Any amount received over $10,000 will require notification of the Internal Revenue Service.