Friday, July 30, 2004

The Walrus and the Dock

My corpulent Texan friend, the Walrus, had never, ever captained a kayak before; however, "degree of experience" wasn't a consideration for him when deciding to make his maiden voyage a solo one.

If you read no further, know that one should never go out in a kayak, for the first time, alone. Especially if one's tummy is liable to get stuck inside the portal of the kayak.

While driving a party boat full of pre-teen girls over to a lakeside bar for pizza (I know how that sounds, but it was for pizza, and pizza alone) we toddled past the Walrus in his kayak. He looked more like he was wrestling with, rather than operating, the paddle. Having never seen a Texan paddle before, this was my amateur opinion.
The zipper on his life jacket was showing signs of fatigue.

I am not strong in problems dealing with Physics, but if a fully-loaded party boat can best a kayak in the momentum department, something is amiss. Instead of "The tortoise and the Hare", it was "The tortoise and the Turtle".

When I asked if he needed any help, my voice straining to be heard over the indiscreet whispers and giggles of my pre-teen passengers, the Walrus took a page from the screenplay of "Falling Down" and answered only with a steely glare fixed on the horizon. He was either: 1) deep in contemplation, for at the time the WWF(sic) RAW storyline concerning Stone Cold Steve Austin was particularly complex; 2) deep in psychosis, caused by acute stupidity.

We chugged on to the bar for pizza, leaving behind the Walrus, the paddle, the kayak, and the life jacket locked in a dead heat for which one would give up first.

Two pizzas in, with some girls opting to pick off all the toppings on their slices and eat them, and some picking all the toppings off and eating only the crust, we were relaxed and having a good time. The bar was decorated liberally with animals (mostly baby black bears) that had been hit by cars and then stuffed and twisted into idyllic pastoral scenes as if to give them a new lease on life. The stuffed fish even had synthesised slime drooling out of their little gaping maws. It was Norman Bates' America as it would have appeared on the Saturday Evening Post.

I left for the john, and when I came back there was, what appeared to be, a series of dead jellyfishes lying on the floor. They were dirty, wet footprints. Big fat ones.

The bartender called to me:
A- "You're from the camp? Some fat guy broke the dock and sunk his boat. Got my floor all wet."
B- "Really?" I was trying not to laugh. "Sorry about the floor. . .and the dock."

So down I went, to the disabled dock, where my girls were gathered around the Walrus. He was wet from the tip of his toes to the top of his Arizona Diamondbacks cap. As I passed other boats moored along the part of the dock still standing I could hear men laughing and retelling the story of how "that fat guy. . .broke the dock"! I wanted to stop and ask for details. I could see the story of "The Walrus and the Dock" fast becoming a legend--an Aesopian tale of caution--and I wanted to get all the juicy facts.

It was a picture that I wish I had. The Walrus dripping wet, standing barefoot on a half-submerged dock, with a large yellow kayak, also half-submerged, gently knocking on the dock like the Tell-tale heart.
CLUNK. CLUNK. CLUNK. I know what you did. CLUNK. CLUNK. CLUNK.

B- "You know, this looks like a perfect example of an Incorrect Docking Procedure, girls."
W- Nothing.
Girls- (tittering)
B- "Need a hand? Where's your sandals?"
W- (pause) "The bottom of the lake."
B- "The bottom of the. . .how'd they get there?"
W- "The dock broke and I fell in."
B- "What happened to the kayak?"
W- "Help me get it out of the water."
B- "Don't you know how to un-swamp your own kayak? It's a one man job."
W- "Just help me pull it out."
B- "You shouldn't go kayaking across the lake alone if you don't know basic kayaking procedures."
W- "Just help me get it out of the water."
B- "Okay. Go back to the bar, girls, and wait for us there. These docks are unsafe--they collapse without warning."

Once we were alone, I showed the Walrus how dead easy it was to pull a swamped kayak onto a dock to empty it. He watched from a safe distance while I worked.
Through questioning I discovered that he had only made it halfway out of the kayak before the dock collapse, and thus all three (kayak, Walrus, and dock) had ended up in Sandy Lake.

B- "Now let's find your sandals. They're rubber, and should be floating around here somewhere."
W- "No. They sunk into the mud under the dock and came off my feet."
B- "So. . .? Let's get them!"
W- "Forget it; let's go back to camp."
B- "It'll only take a minute to get your sandals. Give me your paddle."

So I poked around in the muddy lake bottom until I felt some resistance that could have been sandals.

B- "There! Jump in and pull them out!"
W- "There's leaches!"
B- "There's no leaches! Kids are swimming in this lake every day! Go in and get them."

I'll never forget the sight, till the day I die, of the reluctant Walrus, his face barely above the water line, groping around the lake bottom looking for his sandals in locations I chose based on poking a kayak paddle into the muck. He made this "Gah! Gah! Gah!" noise while he worked that made each breath sound like it would be his last.
And as if he hadn't suffered enough indignity, I took an opportunity I could not pass up. Pointing at a piece of lake dirt that had stuck to his neck as it bobbed up and down I exclaimed, "What's THAT!"

Everything went just as my wicked little mind had planned; that is until, in his spastic rush to escape the leaches, he beached himself on the dry bit of dock I was standing on and broke it.
I joined my pal in the leach-infested Sandy Lake.

The party boat cruised into camp with more passengers than it left with, and two of them were soaked.
And the moral of the story? All good Aesop fables have a moral!

If a dock will not hold a Walrus; it certainly won't hold a Walrus and a Jackass.

No comments: