Not Necessarily the News
By Ken MacDonald
My wife had a business conference to attend in Chicago so I tagged along over the weekend, and we found ourselves on one of dozens of river tours of the city’s architecture Saturday. As you might expect this was fascinating and enjoyable, but nerd that I am, and also amateur former boat captain of a small sailboat, I couldn’t help but scorn our nautical accommodations. Basically we were sitting in church chairs bolted to the deck of a barge powered by a tugboat. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re hauling grain underneath us,” I said all smart-alecky as we puttered up the Chicago River after leaving Lake Michigan. The barge was to sailing as The Little Mint was to food, and the crew could have been ticket-takers at Carowinds. Derision, derision, derision.
Monday morning, when I should have been in Raeford at work, I was killing some conference time by sitting in the shade on a bench beside the same river. Lo and behold here comes the very barge I’d sailed. It puttered downstream and stopped in the middle of the river in front of me. I noticed there were no passengers, just crew. I thought by the activity on the deck that there may be some engine trouble, but then the boat turned around and puttered slowly back upstream. Then it turned again and sped downstream faster than I thought it capable. All of a sudden the form of a human body clad in a lifejacket flipped over the edge and splashed into the water, floating in place as the boat left it. A long horn sounded, and the crew ran in different directions. A guy used a long white pole to point to the man overboard, as the boat quickly came about. Others grabbed gaffs and retrieved from storage a small crane they affixed to the side as the approach to the body was completed. In just minutes, they’d fished the dummy aboard.
And I was humbled. These “ticket takers” just showed their mettle, and this “barge” and its crew saved the life of a would-be drowner after I had derided derided derided them.
I guess most jobs have this element about them—some competency that the public doesn’t get to see often, but at times can be crucial. My bad. Barge crew, this Bud’s for you. And for everyone who trains on their job to save someone’s (sometimes unappreciative) opposite end.