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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reminiscing While Tied Up to a Mooring Ball in Boot Key Harbor...

Boot Key Harbor has over one hundred mooring balls all neatly laid out in straight rows throughout the harbor and my boat just so happens to be tied up to the ball closest in to the marina facilities.

This was at my request when I first checked into the harbor so that I wouldn't have to row any further than necessary when going to and from the dinghy docks. I didn't have an outboard motor on my inflatable at the time and so yeah, it made rowing that inflatable less of an ordeal.

Besides, being in close has been a real plus on more than just a few occasions when I absolutely had to make a run to the marina restroom and shower facilities if you know what I mean.

What can I tell ya other than yeah... I is purty smart and it weren't fer nothin' that I went to college and got meself an edukasion.

Being tied up to the H1 mooring ball has the additional advantage in that I can pick up the internet signal from the marina facilities as well. It is somewhat of a weak signal but a signal nonetheless so I ain't complaining.

Another advantage is that I can simply look out through one of the various portholes in the cabin of my boat and observe all the other boaters here in the harbor either motoring or rowing on past my boat throughout the day. If nothing else, it's something to do other than wish I were back in Dallas scooping dog-poop and raking leaves in my back yard.

It is however the few dinghies motoring ashore before daybreak every morning that brings to mind the time when I too would motor ashore to go to work. I know what you're thinking... that work is a four letter word in my vocabulary but I can assure you that yes, there was indeed a time way back in the day when I actually dinghied ashore to go to work.

This all goes back to the time when my then wife and I cruised aboard S/V Bratcat way back in '88 and '89 and were anchored offshore of Christmas Tree Island across the way from Key West.

My then wife was always the more sensible of the two of us and held down a teaching position at a local parochial school at the time so that our cruising budget wouldn't get blown out of the water in the first couple of months of cruising. I on the other hand did little other than piddle around the boat and play correspondence chess while sipping on rum and cokes before noon everyday.

That scene went on for awhile until Gary, a garrulous, fellow boater aboard a fishing trawler, kept badgering me to get a job at the wastewater treatment facility that was under construction at the time on nearby Fleming Key.

I'd never worked a day in my life outside the confines of an office and I can assure you that I was most intimidated at the prospect of working with my hands at an hourly wage.

But Gary who worked as an electrician at the plant, persisted in badgering me and would more often than not shout out to me before heading back down the dinghy docks, "Come on Alex, work like a man!".

Gary had informed me on more than a few occasions of where it was I needed to go to submit my application and what to say when I went in for an interview. I was to simply tell the construction general manager that I was a carpenter so that I might earn the nine dollars an hour wage and not the seven dollars paid to laborers.

Well I did indeed finally make it out to the make shift trailer office for my interview but failed miserably at bluffing my way in as a carpenter. I was totally clueless as to what I was being asked insofar as carpentry was concerned and hardly knew the difference between a claw hammer and a ball-peen hammer.

The general manager upon concluding the brief interview stated, "I can't hire you as a carpenter, but we do need construction laborers", whereupon I promptly blurted out, "I'll do it" and with that I was gainfully employed and given instructions as to where report to first thing the following morning.

Not that it has anything to do with my experience at the plant, but this same general manager later purportedly got his a** fired on the spot one day after his boss unexpectedly showed up unannounced and observed him hunched over his desk doing lines of a white powdery substance... whatever that might have been.

But like I say, I wasn't there and that just so happened to be the story that was later circulated among the guys at the plant which was affectionately referred to as the "Sh*t Plant".

In any event, after dinghying ashore before daybreak the following morning, I hop on my bike and ride on over to Fleming Key. My fifteen minute or so bike ride takes me across a bridge and on through the front gate of the naval base where the waste water treatment facility was under construction.

I'm outfitted in a pair of khaki colored Dicky loose fitting pants, a white t-shirt, cotton gloves, construction boots along with a work belt fitted with a doo-hicky to hold my claw hammer in place.

It's not long before I'm informed who my boss is and am soon led out to perform my first task along with some other newbie. The boss is a tall elderly black fellow with calloused hands and a lean physique. He's got a no nonsense demeanor and he briskly leads us out aways from the construction site out into an open field.

In the middle of that field is all kinds of lumber haphazardly strewn about in a mound that could easily fill half a basketball court. There are 2x4s, 4x4s, plywood sheets, and who knows what else, all with many different shapes and sizes.

The other newbie, a scrawny white dude with long scraggly dirty blond hair and I are then summarily instructed to stack the lumber according to its size. The lumber is to be later carted off the premises on tractor rigs.

The work is not only laborious but treacherous as well. There are nails protruding everywhere just waiting to stick you good if you weren't careful. Our instructions include extracting whatever nails can be pulled out with the claw end of our hammers and to pound in those that cannot be extracted with the other end of the hammer.

It is a hot, miserable, laborious job and I just so happened to be running a low grade fever at the time and was periodically hacking up some gawd awful chest congestion.

Hardly an hour has gone by and I'm already feeling positively miserable. Not only is the work physically hard but it is mind numbing as well... and to top it off, the other dude I'd been assigned to work with just won't shut up. He's got me as a captive audience and is now trying his darnedest to save my soul for whatever reason.

I hardly know the kid's name and already he's inquiring whether I've been born again. After a WTF moment on my part, I gently inform him that I am an atheist.... as in I don't want to pursue this conversation any further and you can shut up now.

All I care to think about while stacking all that lumber is to keep my mouth shut, do as I'm told and of the seven dollars an hour I'll be earning while reminding myself that this ain't forever and I'll be soon setting sail for the Bahamas once the school year lets out.

Yeah... my first day working out at that Sh*t Plant was indeed a most miserable day. I did nevertheless eventually tough it out and later actually came to enjoy working at the plant. I later befriended the other guys on the labor crew and genuinely enjoyed their fellowship.... all black fellas from aboard a shrimp boat from out of Charleston, South Carolina. (Hey Mitch... I do hope that life has treated you well.)

I did indeed have a number of memorable life experiences while working out at that plant but those will simply have to be shared at a later date and on another blog entry because right now I just want to crawl into the v-berth and get some much needed sleep.

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