A Last Day on the Bay
by Pat Piper
One of the regular lines coming from anyone in my family after something blows up a dinner party, a marriage, a joke is it seemed like a good idea at the time. This isnt rationalization and its in no way ducking responsibility for ones actions. Its just the facts. Regardless of the Monday Morning Quarterbacking that goes on after a disaster, there is always a root of the original idea still possessing both purpose and reason prior to its going downhill.
I say this because it sure seemed like a good idea to row my eight-foot dinghy across Rockhold Creek on a Saturday afternoon to have a cold one at Skippers Pier and to then row it back to the marina where I keep my boat. My reason was obvious: This is a healthy way to get some exercise while quenching a thirst.
It was a beautiful late fall afternoon, and there wasnt a bit of wind to blow the small boat out to the shipping channel. I had a life jacket, as every smart and responsible boater should have whenever going out into the sea, and a hand-held GPS in the event I couldnt find my way along the route that spanned, at best, a quarter mile.
So I rowed, admiring the scenery while feeling the peace found only on the water. I never really understood all that artistic stuff in Joseph Conrad or Ernest Hemingway, but I knew what I was feeling had something to do with what they were writing.
I entered the channel as a small runabout passed by. Two guys wearing backwards baseball caps were watching my progress while no doubt wondering where this fool in the floating bathtub was headed. This is where things started going south even though I was headed due north (the GPS tells you everything).
Which way is Chicago? I yelled.
The engine slowed and the runabout started a circle back in my direction. Me? I kept rowing.
Chicago? One yelled back. Did you say Chicago?
Yeah, when I was in Solomons Island yesterday, some guy pointed this way and Ive been rowing ever since. Im thinking he was BS-ing me. I was clipping along at a good pace. The rowing was going good, too.
Solomons? You rowed that thing from Solomons? Yesterday? The guy steering the boat was asking the questions now.
The boat was still circling me as I rowed. By this time, another boat was coming in from the Bay, and one of those on board gave me a thumbs up.
This guy is trying to find Chicago, one of the baseball caps warned, as if Im paddling a load of anthrax across the water or wearing a sign that says Hi, my name is Osama.
Chicago? The thumbs-up guy was talking. Hell, hes in Chicago. The sun was shining brighter. Now two boats were circling me. Or each other.
Hes 900 miles from Chicago, the skipper of the first boat yelled back. This is Maryland.
Well then it wont be long, I offered, because Chicagos in Maryland, isnt it?
I could see both baseballs caps shaking from left to right.
I got to Skippers Pier and tied up the boat, hopped out and went to get a beverage. Thats when a woman who was watching all of this walked over.
You arent really looking for Chicago are you?
According to those guys over there, I said pointing toward the boat that had just passed, Ive arrived.
This isnt Chicago, she warned.
Im thinking to myself, why is this an issue? If some fool thinks hes in Chicago, let him think it and leave him alone because in the larger scheme of things, it really doesnt matter. Everyone has to be somewhere and all were arguing about is a name.
The lady followed me to the dock and watched my progress back into the channel.
At the halfway point, another boat came and slowed to let me pass in front. There were a man and a woman on board, and the woman was at the controls. The man leaned over and asked, Is this Deale?
Absolutely, I answered. I was holding back from saying anything that could be considered misleading.
Were from Chicago and weve been looking for this place all day, the woman said.
I know that feeling, I said, rowing away.