Mixed Singles in a Sinking Boat

oliver cole via unsplash

Looking for love almost killed me once. I’m not kidding.

When I was single in my 20’s, my also-single brother Kelly and I decided to join a youth-group mixer activity, a trip from Tybee Island, Georgia to Little Tybee Island, so named because it’s twice as big as regular Tybee Islandreally. The island namers, I guess, had a wicked sense of humor or else a terrible grasp of geography.

About 20 of us lonely, luckless youths were ferried across the mile of water by a ragtag flotilla of volunteer boaters. Kelly and I were in a seaworthy 25-foot boat on the trip over, which took only 10 minutes. The plan was that the boat captains would return for us in a couple of hours or so.

The trouble started when Kelly I and were ready to leave but the only available boat was no more than a dinghy with a small outboard motor. I didn’t much like the look of it, but I thought it’d be OK to hold the three of us. After we got in, however, a young woman started fast-walking toward the tiny boat and announced she wanted to ride, too.

While I fully understand that it’s almost never acceptable to focus on a person’s weight, I’d argue that once in a while it’s a legitimate concern. I don’t know how much this young woman weighed; I only remember that when I realized she would be in the boat with us, I thought, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” Surely the boat owner would say something—but he didn’t. I remember wishing that we weren’t already in the boat. If we got out now, she’d likely take it as an insult, and I certainly didn’t want to cause anyone emotional pain. But I remember being very, very uncomfortable, even fearful, about the situation. Hurt a woman’s feelings a little bit—or drown?

Of course I chose death.

My mother had always told me, “Never make fun of someone with weight issues. Someday, you might find yourself in the same boat.” Momma was right.

At this point, allow me to quote from a tourist website about the water between the two Tybees: “The journey is extremely dangerous due to the rapidly rising tides and fast currents. Do not attempt to swim, wade, or use an…unsuitable vessel to get to Little Tybee.”

The first few minutes of the journey went OK except that we didn’t seem to be making much progress. You know how it feels to be in a long line at the post office and the line doesn’t move and you start getting impatient, frustrated, and claustrophobic? That’s what it felt like in that riding-low-in-the-water little boat. The motor was buzzing, but I couldn’t tell we were actually moving.

After that first few minutes, the water became more choppy, and then to my wide-eyed horror, a little water sloshed over the side into the boat, and then the dinghy started to rise and fall with the waves, and on every fall, we took on more water. Though our vessel could’ve served as a yacht’s life boat, it was beginning to feel a lot more like a death boat.

The captain handed out plastic cups and suggested we start bailing. I remember thinking, “If we had bailed on this boat earlier, we wouldn’t have to be bailing now.”

A lot goes through your mind at times like these. Like “Why did I stop taking swimming lessons at the ‘advanced beginner’ level? What are the relative buoyancies of body fat and lean muscle mass? And shouldn’t decisions about who needs to get out of the boat be based on senioritylast on, first off?”

I imagine the young woman had her own, different, criteria about who should be kicked overboard, but in my defense, let me say that nobody was bailing as fast as I was. If bailing were an Olympic sport, I would’ve won gold that day, I can assure you. If I’d been on the Titanic, a terrible tragedy could’ve been averted.

After about 40 minutes of thinking I was going to dieand due in large part (I can’t stress this enough) to my aforementioned incredible bailing athleticismwe (all four of us) docked back on Tybee Island and disembarked, and I felt like a terrible, terrible weight had been lifted.

And as far as social mixers went, I decided to cool it for a while. I realized I had only wanted to get my feet wet. I wasn’t really ready yet to actually take the plunge.


(Bill Spencer is author of Uranus Is Always Funny: Short Essays to Make You Laugh.)

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2 thoughts on “Mixed Singles in a Sinking Boat”

  1. I don’t know anything about long lines in US post offices but two words come to mind – Louis DeJoy.

    I’ll just leave that there and let it sink in.

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