September 15th was a very special day for my co-workers at the Jet Express. This is why.
Kelley's Island is a respectably sized island off the north coast of Ohio. It's known for the glacial grooves along the northern shore and a popular local tourist destination. At the time I was an employee of The Jet Express, a small boat line that serviced the island and a few other islands in Lake Erie.
Kelley's Island is actually less heavily traveled than the smaller, but more lively South Bass Island (home of Put-in-Bay) so when I was scheduled to work there, it was prudent to plan for a slow, blisteringly boring day. I packed my own lunch, I packed a book, and I packed my last nerve because I would need it to keep myself sane.
The morning shift was unique because we had no one to catch the line for the first boat. We would generally draw lots, or rochambeaux to decide who would be the one to jump and catch the first line of the day. On this particular day, it was my turn.
You all saw this coming didn't you? I climbed out over the railing, I waited to get near enough to the dock and I lost my grip at just the wrong time stepping casually into the water.
I'm not one to lose my head. I tread water and pondered my predicament. I wasn't strong enough to just climb up the poles of the dock. I couldn't climb back up the boat as the hull was smooth.
Luckily, there's a man on the dock who saw me fall. He was wearing a black hawaiian shirt and a bucket hat covered in little colorful fishing lures. He threw his hand up in the air in a fist (the sign for stop docking and hold your position). The captain that day mistook him for a drunken tourist (and let's face it, that is exactly what he looked like) giving the fist in the air sign for "Yeah! Power to ya, man!" and just kept doing what he was doing. One of the other crew members also saw me, jumped to the dock successfully and threw me a rope.
So I'm sitting on the dock soaked and the captain walks off the gangplank, looks down at me and say, "What happened to you?" I couldn't do more than sheepishly grin and shake my head.
Of course there was another crew member on the stern of the boat who also saw the whole situation and he was quick to tell everyone else at the company what happened. I wasn't able to go home since at the time, I was a teenager, I didn't have a house key, and my parents weren't home, so I just worked through my shift all wet. Part way through my shift I get a phone call on the company phone.
They had written a poem. I wish I could recall how it went, but I do remember it having a line about how sad I was to have soaked my lunch. As I remember it, before the boat took off, I had complained that I was worried about whether or not my tortilla sandwich had survived the dunk.
In retrospect, it was a much more dangerous situation than it seemed. Since I came out unscathed, it was merely one of the more embarrassing moments of my life.
I do think on that poem rather fondly, though.