wine by the color

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fresh off Friday's fun and games, then there was Saturday...

I've always thought it was strange that you don't need any sort of license to operate a boat in New Jersey waters. Apparently, New Jersey finally agrees. As of June 1, anyone born after 1968 needs to possess a Boating Safety Certificate to drive a boat. So my brother and I spent Saturday learning about boating safety. It quickly became apparent that this was going to be a long day.

Class started at 8:15, and at 8:13 we made our first mistake - seat selection. There were about 70 people in the room (a sidebar: the session was held in the school cafeteria, and the menu from Friday was still listed. Leading off the lunch options? Pork roll and cheese. Outstanding work by this shore-town high school.) Because Skip and I obviously wanted to sit together, we wound up next to Dick and his son, Doug.

Ah, Dick. We'll get back to him in a minute.

Things started rather uneventfully. The first speaker was fine, offering a general overview of boats. He did start with about 20 minutes of shtick and stories before getting to the topic, but that was fine. The second speaker opened with, "Welcome to the longest day of your life." Given what I'd been through Friday, I thought that was highly unlikely.

He may have been right.

This guy was also fine, although a bit zealous in his instruction. You can tell he takes his boating safety extremely seriously. Then, it was on to the least engaging speaker I've ever heard. He did not change his tone for almost an hour. It also seemed he didn't know exactly what he was talking about. He was killing us. He went on forever, but was unfortunately reviewing some of the most important information, so I was unable to pull my "sleeping with my eyes open" routine. It was during this presentation that my brother leaned over and whispered, "If I fail this test, I'm never driving the boat again, because I'm not going through this again."

So, all of this would have been bad enough. But then you throw Dick into the mix. There was clearly something wrong with Dick. Either he was born sans some faculties, or he has had a stroke or is suffering from some disease that affects motor and mental skills, which is why I was as patient as I was. Otherwise, my hands would have been around his throat before the first break.

During the day, there were seven speakers, who addressed us for a total of seven hours. Half the time, Dick would repeat what had been said. For example, if a speaker said, "neither vessel is the stand-on vessel; both vessels should turn to the starboard," Dick would repeat, at a noticeable volume, "both turn starboard." For everything else, he would use one of the following words or phrases:

"Yes, sir."
"That's a no-brainer."
"Makes sense."
"That's right."
And the most common refrain, a Sling Blade-esque, "Uh huh."

And when I say everything else, I mean EVERYTHING. He had something to say about every single thing that was said. For seven hours. But I only shushed him once, and Skip did so once. Other than that, we just endured it. For a while, I jammed my finger in my right ear to try to block it out, but that got annoying, so I went back to simply sucking it up. In addition to the running commentary, Dick also dropped his pen on the floor no less than 10 times and banged into the desk every time he stood up or sat down (which was frequently, given the dropped pens and his need to go outside to smoke).

It's almost not worth noting that someone in our row had foregone a shower. I'll let you guess who. Fortunately, Doug was sitting between us.

We broke for lunch at 11:20, and Skip and I took refuge in the car, eating our packed lunch while we reviewed the morning and woke ourselves up with some loud music. We waited until the last possible minute to head back in, dreading the return to the school. Rightfully so, as the afternoon was just brutal. But the PM session did provide a few entertaining moments...

Leading off the afternoon action were the Tweedles - Dee and Dum. Dee did all of the speaking; Dum was a silent sidekick who lifted equipment when needed. They kicked things up a notch at about 2:05, when Tweedle Dum blasted the air horn. That woke up our new friend Kevin, seated on the other side of Skip, who jumped off his seat with a "Holy shit." At 2:07, an hour into this presentation, I wrote "We're going to die here" in my book. But at 2:09, the speaker was given the wrap-it-up sign from the back of the room and mercifully, it ended six minutes later.

My favorite moment of the afternoon came next, when the man sitting behind me raised his hand with a question. There's a lot of emphasis on the importance of not drinking while boating, and the instructor noted that if you are cited for drinking while operating a boat, you also get a DUI on your driver's license.

Apparently, there's some confusion as to whether the BAC allowance while boating is 0.10 or 0.08. So the guy behind me asked for a clarification. He wants to know exactly how many beers he can have while boating on New Jersey's waterways. Good times!

Finally, we arrived at the last speaker of the day. This guy was a dead ringer, both in looks and personality, for the teacher who ran in-school suspension at my high school. Chest puffed out, strutting around the room, with a cocky speaking style that was at times difficult to follow (at one point, I wrote down the following quote: "some a dem ones"). He played the bad cop role, trying to scare us with dire tales of boating gone wrong, resulting in all sorts of death and dismemberment. Fortunately, he sped through his material, and then it was time to take the certification test.

There were 50 questions, and you had to get at least 40 correct to pass. I answered the ones I knew and was sure I had 43 right, so I just guessed on the rest. It took no more than 10 minutes. Skip finished it in nine. It took Dick 35. But he passed. Everyone passed. I got 46 right, and my showoff brother, as he predicted, didn't miss a one.

The "this is time I'll never get back" mentality takes over when you're sitting through something like this. But there's always a bright side. My brother and I had a great time hanging out and sharing smart-ass commentary throughout the day. And, most importantly, we'll never have to do this again.


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