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Up the Creek (#2) with lights, sirens and everything

Posted by cdonegal on September 19, 2012 at 9:55 PM

Reggie’s white-water rafting debacle at Harpers Ferry did not quench his thirst for the rubber dinghy experience. When two of his adult nephews came by to visit, they persuaded him to empty the water from his water lounge for a day of fun afloat on the Potomac River. Deflating George, the yellow beast, the four men stowed it with the paddles in the trunk of Reggie’s roadster and headed for the Belle Haven marina on the George Washington Parkway.

The river sparkled with treated sewage from the 300 million gallons a day processed at the nearby Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. Snaky tendrils of hydrilla floated around them in the glistening waters, ropey insubstantial islands in a stream, clogging waterways and fouling propellers. Happily, the SS Jaundiced Minnow (AKA George Raft) had never been burdened by a propeller. In fact, the inside had seen far more water than the outside of the gum boat.

Stripped to the waist, the three sea dogs—well, river dogs—(dog-) paddled upstream, the lesson of the mighty Shenandoah not having been lost on Reggie, who wanted to be sure that they were headed downstream when it was time to return to the car.

They took turns, paddling leisurely, mocked by windsurfers and hooted at by motor craft, enjoying the day and each other’s company. After about 45 minutes, they learned a bit about the history and geography of the river. For example, they learned that the state of Maryland owns the river.

This information was conveyed by the two Maryland State Police officers manning the police boat that had pursued and subdued them. It was not a close race, against the current in a bulky rubber raft v a police powerboat. It made the O.J. Bronco chase look dizzyingly high speed.

The police officers ordered the seamen- filled vessel (Yeah, rivermen, actually but where’s the fun in that? Let’s just move on, shall we?) to cast a line to them so that they could tie them off to preclude escape in their bulky, bright yellow, floating rubber swimming pool.

Let’s just pause a moment to imagine that scenario: Three men in a rubber boat pushing off from the hull of a powerful state police boat to rub-a-dub-dub as fast as their two little paddles could propel them toward the sanctuary of the Virginia shore while the two officers idle after them, attempting to command them to stop while choking with laughter.

No, our swabbies did not envision making a break for it. So when one of the officers asked what they were doing, Reggie answered, “Trying to regain our lost youth.”

I’d like to tell you that the police officers were not amused, but on the contrary, they were barely able to keep a straight face.

When the officers regained their composure, the hailer (as opposed to the driver) asked if they knew why that had been stopped. Reggie suggested that they appeared to be so enjoying cruising down the river on the river on a sunny afternoon that the officers had stopped by to ask whether they might peel off and jump in with them.

“No.” said Officer Hailerman. They had arrested (the technical term, it seems for capturing them. No fingers were printed or mugs shot in the course of this arrest.) the three men in a rubber tub because they had only two life preservers for three people.

“Oh,” Said Reggie.

“Oh, yeah,” said Officer Hailerman. “The channel here is more than twenty feet deep (as if drowning would require using more than the top ten feet of it in a swiftly moving current) and poses a real danger.

“And this”, he said, tearing off a citation “is your tab. Congratulations on your contribution to the Maryland state treasury.” (Disclaimer: that is not exactly what he said, but the allusion was topical and might be as baffling as this non-elucidation to the uninitiated. Actual phrase revealed on request.)

He also explained that they would have to tow them to shore for their own safety. He asked where they wanted to go.

“Well, the car is near Belle Haven,” Reggie said, “but just let us off a little downriver so that all the people at the dock don’t stare.”

“That would be pretty embarrassing, I guess,” the trooper smiled broadly. His teeth glinting brightly in the sun, like Dudley Do-Right after he had done right.

“Sure would,” Reggie agreed.

As they approached Belle Haven Marina, Reggie said, “Just off to the left here is good.”

“Is that where your car is?”

“Well, in the car park, but close enough.”

“Ok,” the driver said, continuing on course.

“Um, you don’t need to go to the dock. We can just….”

The trooper looked at him, positively beaming as they neared the dock…and he flipped a switch, turning on the lights and siren as they landed. And everyone within sight or hearing turned to stare at the hapless, shirtless men shuffling off the boat to untie their rubber raft and slink off toward Reggie’s car, the only sound—other than the blood rushing in their ears—the good natured laughter of two of Maryland’s finest.

And so was born the concept of “having a sinking feeling.”

Categories: Reggie Tales

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