Spectacles, Tentacles, Water & Whine
A tale of time, tide, and my very lucky glasses
Last month, I turned 48. My very thoughtful partner Hal bestowed upon me as a gift a paddle board.
We have a cottage along a river-bend in beautiful, scenic Tidnish NS. It’s a lovely and quaint little spot where everyone knows everyone - and if they don’t know you, they soon will. The community is bursting with a sense of sharing and camaraderie. And because this is cottage country, we know a lot of folks from “town” who also choose to spend their summers out here.
In many ways, it’s Amherst 2.0.
So the choice of a paddle board was the perfect gift.
Note: I have no sea legs. I am near-sighted. I am vain. And I am stubborn (although Hal will say “hard-headed is more like it”).
I’m not a strong swimmer. I used to be, but somewhere in my early forties I developed an aversion to putting my face in the water. I don’t mind getting wet, but I like to keep my head and shoulders above the water line. And truth be told, I’ve always preferred the shower over the bath, as I’m not sure I’m all that fond of submersion, period.
So a paddle board checked a lot of boxes for me. I could get some exercise, enjoy the river, AND stay above the water’s surface, ideally.
Ah, the best laid plans…
I’ve taken ‘er out for a couple of test floats. I felt like a bit of a natural, getting the hang of it pretty easily. Not surprisingly, I prefer a smooth surface. But water makes its own rules, especially when other vessels share the river. I quickly learned that with the presence of other boats in the water, I have better balance if I paddle from my knees rather than from a standing position. Plus I’ve told myself that I can more easily isolate my abs. Or ab. I’m pretty sure I have at least one. Or maybe it’s just where my hernia used to be… but I digress. Regardless, I just feel more sturdy kneeling over standing.
On this particular day, I’d just finished telling my neighbour Bev that I have a stronger appreciation for being AROUND water rather than being IN it.
Consider this foreshadowing.
Sometimes, you have to roll with the punches… or with the waves and the wake, as the case may be.
The tide was coming in. The water was nice but the wind was picking up - and thank goodness for that. It’s been so warm and humid, the breeze was most welcome. Boat traffic was minimal, however, so I decided to be brave (because people were watching) and opted to stand rather than kneel. So off I went.
My confidence was bolstered after meeting one boat and not being affected by the ripple. “I am winning at life,” I reasoned. “I got this. I am queen of the river”.
Then I met another boat. This one was co-captained by two gents I know from town - Chris and Jeff.
“Want us to slow down? Or do you think you can surf?”, hollered Jeff.
“Let’s find out!,” I joked with such bullshit confidence I almost surprised myself. “If I can’t, I’m sure you’ll hear me scream, haha”.
And that’s when I should have taken to my knees.
Because it wasn’t the little wake that threw me off balance. Oh no. It was the image of the little waves hitting the board that caused my knees to shake, my confidence to nosedive, and as might be expected, my body to launch itself arse over teakettle into the water.
That part, I could live with.
“Ha ha, look at me: I’m a mess, the water is shallow, and fuck, I guess I’m not a sailor after all. I’m such an idiot.” These were my verbatim first thoughts as my head and shoulders rose above the water. Also “Fuck. Did anyone see that? Shit. I hope they kept going.”
In my tumble, I’d also lost my glasses… the same glasses for which I’d searched the cottage high and low before heading down to the shore for my little excursion.
Jeff and Chris were beside themselves with concern, much to my enhanced shame and embarrassment. “Are you ok?”
“Oh yes, I’m fine,” I said, laughing in that way people do when they are embarrassed but trying to be so cool and pretend to be normal and nonplussed. “But shit, my glasses fell off.”
The boys weren’t long dropping anchor and jumping into the water to help me look, which only served to make my already sun-kissed face feel even hotter and redder. “Prescription, are they?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so…. But you guys don’t trouble yourselves! It’s my fault they fell off!”
“Actually, it’s kind of our fault,” said Jeff.
So there we were, the three of us pretending we had a snowball’s chance in Hell of finding my glasses, picking up and tossing away strings of seaweed and grass that may as well have been tentacles as far as I was concerned. My inner whiner was already dreading the anticipated call to my insurance company the following day.
I had a flashback to that time 11 years ago when I went skydiving. I was tandem connected to the subject matter expert - the fellow responsible for pulling the draw string on the parachute and getting us both back on the ground. I remembered thinking “I understand Stockholm syndrome. This guy can pretty much do whatever he likes to me at this point, just so long as he gets my sorry ass back on terra firma”.
I don’t know what that has to do with looking for my glasses in the Tidnish River, but that’s where my mind went. Not that I figured I was at risk of being molested by these two helpful guys, but I’m ashamed to admit that it crossed my mind.
And just when I was about to remount my paddle board and do the stomach prone paddle of shame back to shore, Jeff very slowly started walking towards me.
“Shit. This is how it ends. I’m about to be molested.”
Alas, the story ends happily for all concerned.
No one was molested. And Jeff very proudly handed over my glasses.
What amazing luck!
In fact, I was so grateful, he was at greater risk of being molested by me.
But I gave him a hug instead. And suggested he go buy a lottery ticket.
So here’s what I’ve learned:
Trust your gut. If your body says kneel, then kneel.
Trust that people are good. By and large, they are. And given the chance, they will show you time and time again.
Trust in safety. Don’t be an idiot and let pride cloud your judgment. Not only did I ignore my gut, I was vain and didn’t don my whistle or life jacket. A faster boat, unfriendlier boaters, and deeper water, those glasses would have been the least of my worries - if I was still around to worry. So don’t be stupid. Safety first.
Respect the water. And respect the people, creatures, and machines with whom/which you share it.
And now I must draw this story to a close. I’ve got to go buy myself a lottery ticket as well… Maybe even some of those fancy straps for my glasses too.
Ms. Carroll is a 40-something year old veteran public servant and mother of three adult children. She and her partner Hal live with 2 dogs of opposing energy levels in Amherst NS. Shelley is fond of running, red wine, and laughter.