This photograph was taken today at the foot of Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.
Thought you all might like this....
I go to the Christmas Tree Shop in Sagamore today, for "storm supplies" (I ended up buying a spice rack). As I'm leaving, I thinks to myself, "Self.... you'd better gas up the SUV in case the power goes out tomorrow."
So... I pull into the little CITGO station at the bottom of the hill. There are several people there as I do so. Three of them are fueling up their fishing boat (grand total... $207.86), and one other guy is in full military dress. I hopped out of the Jeep to settle the bill with the pump jockey.
The fishermen are the typical old salts you see all over Cape Cod. The military man is perhaps 18, and he walks over to the salts to get directions to the Coast Guard Station. I swear that I saw the fishermen exchange a quick glance at each other, then they turned their attention to the young man.
"Down on the left, about two miles..... first day?"
"Yes, Sir... I report today."
"You know there's a tropical storm coming, son?"
"Jesus, boy... where you from?"
"Iowa! What the hell are you doing in the Coast Guard?"
"I wanted to see the world. I've never been anywhere but Iowa, Sir."
"Oh... you'll see the world, all right... you'll see it like this (he begins to bob violently up and down, to mimic the seasickness-thing that boats do). Ever been on a boat?"
"Yes, Sir... my father took usfishing on the lake every weekend."
"That's a lake, boy... you're going on an ocean. Whole other animal."
The second fisherman jumps in at this point. "Do they still tie cadets to the back of the cutter and drag them, as a sort of initiation?"
"Not in a storm... they lose too many sailors overboard. They'll just leave him on the deck. You know how to swim, son?"
"Yes, Sir. I, ummm (he pauses, figuring out that this will draw derisive comments from the sea dogs), , was in the YMCA as a kid."
"That's a pool, son. This is an ocean. Big diff'ence."
"Just remember," says salt #3, "you don't have to swim faster than the shark. You just have to swim faster than everyone else around you when you see the shark. That'll add 8-10 minutes to your life expectancy."
"The shark'll grab him right off the side of the boat. They wait for the seasick ones to lean over the side, then CHOMP!" He puts the heels of his hands together, and makes his fingers look like teeth closing violently.
I don't want this story to be too salty, but I will say that the kid was buying this hook, line, and sinker. I actually saw him blanch a bit. The sea dogs had this kid over the barrel, and they were sticking it to him like Deliverance. I almost expected the kid to begin squealing.
You know I had to get in on this.
There was a rosary hanging from my rear-view. It was in the car when I bought it, and I left it up... even though I'm not at all religious. Now, I know why I left it. I ran over to the kid, gave him a rather emphatic hug, and began speaking to him in a tongue that was all French... I was banking on him thinking I was Italian.
"Oh, you poor imbecile. Can't you see that these men are trying to scare you?"
If you've read Dracula, think of the part where Harker says he's going to Castle Dracula, and the gypsy girl puts a crucifix on his neck and beseeches him not to go.... in Romany. Where Harker thinks he heard the word "undead" in her speech, I saw a chuckle from one of the fishermen which showed that he picked "imbecile" out of my speech. "Imbecile" in French is "imbecile," btw.
I even hung the Rosary around his neck. If there is a God, I'd bet that even He would see the humor in it, and not penalize me for "improper use of a Rosary." He'd probably get in on the joke Himself, with a few well-timed thunderbolts.
A very religious young Italian woman and three old New England sea dogs are going to be too much for anyone from Iowa to handle, especially where he was already pretty nervous about his first day on campus. P.J. O'Rourke, on driving through Iowa... "Corn corn corn Wal-Mart corn corn corn Nebraska."
Too much culture shock is bad for a kid who is now convinced that he has about 12 hours to drown, get eaten by a shark, or both. I felt badly for the ruse, but I got over it quickly enough.
After the kid left, the pump jockey related a tale about another recruit who was reporting earlier that day. They'd had a similar conversation, and the attendent had asked if the kid had ever been on the ocean before.
"Sure have.... I grew up on an island."
"Really? Which one?"