Embarrassment and Death

Patrick, the little kid up the street who ate 3/4 of a stick of Imperial margarine trying to get the crown to magically appear in his head like in the commercials, had a swimming pool. Just once, all the kids in the neighborhood were invited over to swim while his father played lifeguard. Patrick, tiny as he was, jumped into the deep end like a fish. My older brother and Rose the neighbor girl both swim around in the deep end. And there I was, in the shallow end, with the babies. Except Patrick. He was a baby, but perhaps margarine made him buoyant.

I said I wanted to swim in the deep end, too, and Patrick’s father said, “Why don’t you swim over to the ladder on the side and let’s see how you do.”

I confidently ducked under, knowing I could swim farther underwater, and in about 3.4 seconds, ran out of breath and popped to the surface, yelling, “Help! Help! Help!”

There was a huge splash and someone lifted me out of the pool and set me on the side. Patrick’s father, from in the pool, said, “Perhaps you should stay in the shallow end for now.”

It is astonishing to me that 50 years later, I still find it embarrassing. I’m not saying I would have preferred a tragic death in front of my friends to being rescued. I’m not saying that.

We are strange creatures indeed.


Pintles and Gudgeons and the Man Overboard Drill

My dad’s bigger boat, a Lightning with a 27′ mast, wasn’t ready for sailing yet so we took the little 12-footer. It was a buoyant little beast, capable of carrying four adults: Brett and I and our dad, and our friend Paul. Paul loved sailing and as a result was rooked into a boatload of unnecessary adventures. He spent a lot of his time with us wet.

We always packed food because sailing made us hungry. It’s only a mile across San Diego Bay from the boat ramp where we launched so we sailed over to Silver Strand State Park to have lunch on the beach.

I was at the tiller because Dad wanted to be the first one to step ashore. I realized as we were approaching the shore that the bottom inclined so gradually the rudder was going to hit ground before the bow touched the sand.

I said, “We’re running aground.”

Nothing happened.

I said it again. “We’re running aground.”

Still nothing.

I said, “Hey, we’re running–”

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