While paddling home from work, my phone rang.
The seven-word sentence above would cause most people in my generation to pause in order to weigh exactly what is being said. People 30-years old and younger simply would not find anything unusual in it.
Since salt water is really tough on cellphones, I decided to grab onto an unused mooring buoy to keep my kayak from going out to sea while I put down my paddle, got my hands dry and answered.
The caller was a friend from New Hampshire with whom I quickly got into an enjoyable conversation. After a long day in the sun and with no immediate schedule I was quite content to just lay back and chat. The call was so engrossing that I never saw the shiny black, 80′ yacht as it approached the mooring from behind me. Apparently the skipper of that ostentatious beauty had gained permission from harbor control to tie up on the one buoy among the dozens of empty buoys around there that I had latched onto. My call was interrupted by a British accent hovering about 15 feet above me with a long boat pole at the ready.
I apologized to my NH friend, hung up, put my phone back into its Zip-Lock bag, apologized to my new British acquaintance for the inconvenience of causing him to tread water after such a long ocean crossing, and paddled off the buoy resuming the commute home.
As I departed, looking back, I noticed the flag of royalty and a British home port spelled out on her stern. Without knowing what she had for furnishings and electronics down below, I estimated the market value of this stunning ship to be over a million dollars -more likely over a million pounds. I wondered sincerely if the crew of such a treasure would have noticed the seals that had greeted me as I paddled by harbor ledges on my way in. The seals pay more attention to kayaks than to large vessels because they know kayaks can come much closer to them.
I wondered if I should have invited myself on board during the exchange at the buoy. Those British seafaring folks would likely have been interested in sharing common stories. After all, I conned ships about that size across the oceans during my Navy years; and I have some interesting stories to embellish too. One they would like was about a visit aboard a Royal Navy ship, back in Hong Kong when it was still a British Crown Colony. Ah, but these folks were undoubtedly tired, and about to honor the sun’s position over the yardarm with their Beefeater custom. Besides, an old guy with a sunburned face, clutching a harbor buoy at water level probably looked to them much like a vagrant street person would look to an arriving airport traveler. They mightn’t have recognized the potential attractiveness of the acquaintance. Especially since security aboard royal assets like that would have been tight.
Wondering what life was like on such a prestigious platform, I asked myself that day, “Am I better off performing my humble job, teaching visitors about the ocean, paddling to and from work? Or, should I aspire to the status of sailing ’round the world on a celebrity yacht like that?” At the coming time when this life is over, glancing back through the decades, what would the lasting differences look like?