Mar 19, 201307:26 AM
Running In Fog: HeartLand Boating Humor
Last year about this time, I was doing a wee bit of shopping in a small, privately owned marine store. When possible, I like to shop in the small places. You never know what you’re going to find. It’s like a treasure hunt every single time.
I was studying the wall of gadgets when a man came up beside me. I was shopping just for nifty stuff. Nothing special. Truth be told, I was bored that morning and would rather do a bit of boat shopping than mow the lawn.
Anyway, this guy didn’t look like a boater. First of all, he was tense. Boaters are usually relaxed. He was dressed in pressed khakis with creases and an Oxford shirt buttoned all the way to the top. He had two cell phones attached to his belt, a phone thingy stuck to his ear and a satchel slung diagonally across his body that I guessed was holding a laptop. His hair was short and tidy, parted on the side and pushed way back from his face. His skin was pasty white, and his lace-up shoes were shiny from polishing. But he had a friendly smile, a “little kid in a candy store” smile.
I did what I do best. I watched him. He was scanning the gadgets, too. He found a tidy-looking keychain with a little anchor on it. I was about to tell him that he chose one that won’t float — I’m so super helpful that way — but he turned crisply on his heel and took it to the register. I figured he was a tourist and probably collected sailboat art in his downtown penthouse that was decorated in uber-urban feng shui minimalist philosophy.
I promptly forgot about him.
Until later that weekend. Captain Nemo and I were walking around a riverfront marina. Some friends from back East were due to put in there for the weekend. They hadn’t arrived yet, so Nemo and I were wandering.
There he was, the same guy. He was hanging around a brand-new boat. Nemo is a great ice-breaker. Everybody loves Black Labs. After Nemo introduced himself, I did, too. The guy’s name was Everett, and he was still dressed as if he was headed to the office. He was a bigwig in computers, and after a whole lot of 80-hour weeks, at the ripe old age of 33, he had retired. This was his first boat.
“I Googled boating online. I emailed people who had boats and hung out in boating chat rooms. Then, I read every piece of paper and every booklet that came with this boat, including the engine specs and the special offers. I figure I can handle anything about now.”
“Uh-huh,” I answered.
“Then, I downloaded some star map apps to my phone, and some tide chart and weather apps, too.”
“Uh-huh,” I answered.
“You don’t sound convinced.”
“Tell me, did you put your boat key on that little anchor keychain?”
“Sure did. It looks all boaty, doesn’t it?”
“To me, it just looks like it will sink.”
We had a nice chat and then departed. My friends had arrived, and he had apps to play with, I guess.
Fast forward to this year.
“Everett? Is that you?” Same riverside marina, different friends due to show up at any moment.
“Hey! How are you?”
He had changed. He looked happy and content. The khakis were replaced by baggy cargo pants. The Oxford shirt hung open over a Jimmy Buffet T-shirt, and his hair was longer and wind-blown. There wasn’t a cell phone or app gizmo in sight. But his smile was the same.
“So, how was your first year of boating?”
“It was great. I live aboard, you know,” he said. “It took a little getting used to, but after some mishaps, I got the hang of it. I love it. It’s exciting and peaceful at the same time. Does that make sense?”
“It sure does,” I replied. “Tell me, what ever happened to that pretty little anchor keychain?”
He pulled something from his humungous pocket. “Oh, it kinda dropped overboard. And it sunk. Now, I have this thing.”
He held up a single key on a bright yellow floaty keychain.
Everett, you’ve come a long way, baby.