A Day In The Life Of A River Boat Man
“A Day In The Life Of A River Boat Man”
(Photo Credit: Tom Kielty)
Social media reminded me recently that I had an unexpected and unspoken anniversary this week and given the cavalcade of shit raining on the earth recently I thought I’d post an exclusive little smile for you right here.
Over ten years ago I spent a summer working for a tour boat company on the Charles River which separates Boston and Cambridge, MA. I won’t tell you the name of the company because the owner was a douchebag. I had an inkling of his douche status during my first week when I was told he was away, “Looking at thoroughbreds.” Not horses, mind you. “Thoroughbreds,” as his sycophantic two-person office team reminded me.
My suspicion that he was a trust funder living off the success of previous generations was confirmed relatively quickly but I can generally look past that if the douche chromosome is absent but his was strong and one day he proved it.
The college-aged summer staff, mostly children of the owner’s friends, all quickly settled into a grad school level study of bootlicking and happily informed me of his birthday. Well, maybe this was my spot. I wished him a happy birthday and followed it with, “It seems we have something in common, today’s my birthday too.”
Which it actually was. He nodded and said, “Tuck in your shirt.”
So, there you are. Anyway, the gig was half of the time in this little booth selling tickets to the next cruise which you would then lead, pointing out local landmarks on either side of the boat to visiting tourists. There was a prepared, outdated and inaccurate script that the kids stuck to with religious fervor. I may have skimmed it.
But anyway here is one classic tale of a day enthusiastically selling tickets and dispensing sunshine power goodwill when approached by two angry Hispanic women who immediately demanded tickets for the 1:45 cruise. I gave my most sincere fake apology which anyone who’s known me longer than fifteen minutes would never buy and informed them that this tour was sold out, offering to put them on the 3:00 cruise. I may have even offered them a couple of drink tickets, which I did to any attractive female patron I judged to be over 18 or any annoying bellyacher. No skin off my nose, those room-temperature cans of generic cola didn’t cost me anything.
No dice. They wanted to get on that boat and they wanted on now. “Now!” I tried to explain that even if I could the Coast Guard wouldn’t allow me to put them on, the boat was at capacity. “We have tickets!” they exclaimed in unison. I nodded and explained that what they actually had were vouchers, probably given to them at their hotel, that I would gladly exchange for tickets for any cruise except the 1:45 which was, as I’d previously explained, sold out.
This was when the woman who I’d misjudged as the quieter and correspondingly more reasonable of the two unexpectedly exploded. “We want to get on that boat right now!” she screamed, drawing immediate attention from anyone within earshot. “We want to ride now!”
“Yeah?” I asked, my patience with this childish exchange exhausted. “Well, I want to go to the Playboy Mansion right now. But, in one minute your dream of being on the 1:45 cruise will die while mine will live on. Now, how about that 3:00 tour?”
In the movie version of our story, these ladies return at 2:45, leaving plenty of time for that 3:00 boat trip as I close the door and lock the ticket booth. The boat is returning from their missed journey and readying for the 3:00 trip just as a black limousine pulls up, the door swinging open to reveal Hugh Hefner, extending a martini and asking me, “Ready to go?”
I was reminded of this on Monday - the actual 11-year anniversary of this encounter should anyone want to send along a gift (cash obviously preferred) - and I sent an encapsulated version of it via text to a few friends. One asked if these women had at least laughed at my rejoinder and my mind immediately returned to the ticket booth.
“Fuck ‘em, they didn't have tickets, they had free vouchers from their hotel,” I responded. “And, I never made it to the Playboy Mansion so I guess ultimately nobody won that day.”