A Hidden Talent

Many people brag that they rode my ol’ woodie

I seem to bring out the worst in people. It’s a talent and a knack. I’m not the only one. My friend, Mich, also has the gift. Which may explain why we’re friends. Besties, in fact.

The other day, I confronted a woman who is like family.

“Why in the world are you so nice to M Butterfly?” M Butterfly is a local entrepreneur of dubious sexual identity and even more dubious business transactions, falling totally beyond the gray and hazy boundaries of legality. “The Butterfly ruined your daughter’s business and never paid your son for all the hard work he did."

She replied, “Because when you’re nice to them, they disclose secrets to you.”

I laughed ruefully and wryly. “Listen, I’m NOT nice to people and they still disclose their deeply held secrets as well as thoughts that should never be expressed to anyone. Not to mention their freedom in exhibiting inexcusable behavior.”

Tis true. Mich and I possess that uncanny ability. Which leads me to this story.

Several years ago, I was threatened and menaced by a mall cop. Well, he’s a seasonal boat cop. He was still miffed that I wasn’t sexually interested in him. To get him to leave me alone, I did say, “Had no idea you have an open marriage. Can’t wait to meet your wife.”

That didn’t give me any brownie points and pushed him over the threshold. In retaliation, he pulled me over for not putting adhesive registration stickers on the wooden hull of my antique boat.

I inherited this boat from my father and had it restored two times by two different ‘professionals’ - both thieves. The second one actually stole my boat for a year, but I digress. The boat has a reputation for being the ONLY original boat on my lake still in existence. It’s also a beacon for crazed Hasidic boat renters who want to annihilate anything that moves on or in water.

So this mall cop, ignorant of antique wooden watercraft, insisted that I put those decals on my hull even after I explained it wasn’t necessary. “Listen,” I said, “I live here. It’s not as if I’m going anywhere.”

Enraged, he shrieked, “I’m going to get you arrested,” and phoned the local constable on radiophone.

I heard every word.

The local constable said, “What the fuck is wrong with you? That vehicle is part of our history so why do you want to destroy it? She lives here, for Christ’s sake, she’s not going anywhere! Leave her alone.”

I wrote the Mayor a five-page complaint letter where I outlined how that mall cop tried to hit on me numerous times and how he abused his mall cop authority to get me arrested for nothing.

He was told to leave me alone and is no longer a mall cop. Even today, when he sees me, he crosses the street.

Flash forward: 

I’m out on my boat and another mall cop pulls me over, “I have a question for you.” He stood at the bow like Captain Ahab. In this small town, everyone knows everyone. And we knew each other.

“I’m in the process of docking,” I said. “It’s like navigating a two-ton barge with no power steering.”

When the other mall cop turned their boat around, Captain Ahab nearly fell off. I rolled my eyes upward and tried not to laugh. Well, I did.

At the dock, Captain Ahab asked me, “Is your boat registered?”

“Of course,” I said and showed him the registration card attached to the two registration decals.

“Why aren’t those attached on the hull?”

“Because it’s wood and the mucilage will eat through and rot the wood.” I exhaled. “Listen, I went through this before with the other constables.”

That’s when he went batshit crazy. “Well, since I’m new, why don’t you clue me in?”

So I explained to him what the constables and the Mayor and I agreed. “As long as I carry the reg and decals in the boat, it’s ok.”

That caused the veins in his neck to pop. “Why do you think you’re exempt from New York State law?”

I shrugged. “How about you ticketing the Hasidic boat renters who break every maritime law!”

“You’re an anti-Semite!” he screamed.

“I’m a JEW!” I screamed back. “Besides, they’re not Jews, they’re cultists.”

“That’s YOUR opinion,” he said.

“No, that’s the truth,” I retorted. “Why are you bothering me? I’m a sitting duck. I live here, I can’t go anywhere. Why don’t you ticket the Hasidim and other people who DON’T live here?”

That didn’t help matters any. He kept repeating the question, “Why do you think you’re exempt from New York State law?” He kept shouting, “You’ve given me three different answers to this question."

Now, anyone who knows me knows I’ve an aversion to authority, esp. from nincompoops. At this point, I knew to argue with him was going to lead me nowhere. So I dismissed him.

He lost it entirely. “I’m going to ticket you. I’m going to get the Federal authorities to fine you for riding in an undocumented boat.” He raged, ranted and threatened me for twenty minutes.

The Captain Ahab I know happens to be quite a laid-back fellow. In shock, I asked, “What’s your name?”

“Captain Ahab."

I looked at him and said, “You do know I’m friends with your mother and I’m going to tell her.” His face contorted.

He said, “Stick them to your windshields.”

Reluctantly, I did so although those were the original panes of glass from 1946. Before he drove away, he said, “That still won’t stop me from ticketing you.”

I phoned the Antique Boat Association in Clayton, New York.

“I never heard of such a thing!” they said. “Antique wooden boats are exempt from the stickers on the hull. It’ll rot the wood! As long as you put it in a visible spot, you shouldn’t be ticketed."

Disgusted, I phoned the Chief of Police.

“Hey, I saw you out on your boat the other day.”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m phoning you.” I recounted the entire story.

He was in shock. “Are you sure it’s Captain Ahab? He has to be the mellowest person I ever met.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I tend to bring out the worst in people.”

“Let me see what’s going on here.”

Then, I went to see the Mayor. Every time I go to his office, he sighs for he knows it’s going to involve mayhem.

“Sorry to bother you, but it’s about my boat.”

“Oh, I saw you out on your boat the other day.”

I rapidly told him the condensed version starting with, “Remember that 5-page letter I wrote a few years’ back?”

He cracked up.

“Are you sure it’s Captain Ahab? He has to be one of the mellowest people I have ever met in my life!”

Dryly, I said, “I tend to bring out the worst in people.”

He said, “Let me talk to him and find out.”

Later, Mich and I went to a local resto. Standing outside was Captain Ahab’s mother. We kissed and gabbed and then I told her the story.

“Are you sure it was my son? He has to be the mellowest person on earth.”

Yes, I do bring out the best in people. It’s a talent.

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