A little help from our foe
SATURDAY, September 4 – Went to pick up our little sloop in the Westerdok canal for a picnic on the water, but we were told that the boat had been towed away by the police because it was tied to a tree. The tree is municipal property and it’s going to cost me 250 euros. I decided to fib a little.
‘Do you have the pleasure boat decal for this year?’ asked the policeman.
‘It’s probably somewhere in the house. I couldn’t find it.’
‘Then we can’t release your boat.’
‘May I explain what happened?’
The answer was yes.
‘The boat belonged to my wife. She was the sailor in the family. She always left it tied to a tree and the sticker is somewhere among her papers. My wife died last October – run down by a motorcycle cop. I haven’t been down here since then. So you’ll understand that all this is a bit difficult for me.’
He understood and was silent.
The truth is that Jennifer was decidedly ‘not amused’ the day when, in quite an impulsive mood, I had bought the boat. It was something for me and the boys. Male bonding. She considered the purchase ridiculous, not to mention rash and irresponsible. How often do you think you’ll take the thing out?
Not that often, I had to admit. This was only the third time in the last year. So, in a sense, she’d been right; but, as a man, you’re not going to say so. Not even posthumously. The motor started without a hitch. The policeman standing next to the boat pushed us out into the open water and we were on our way. At least, that’s what we thought. But then the motor conked out and we weren’t going anywhere. I cursed from the bottom of my heart. What now?
‘Where are you headed?’
‘To the south end of the city.’
Before we knew it, we were being towed by the police boat and gliding in the direction of the canals. The boys loved it and, gradually, I saw the funny side of our adventure. So, we took out our picnic lunch, leaned back, and began to enjoy ourselves. People on the quay smiled and waved.
Other boats passed us. One was almost identical to ours and I recognized my Facebook friend, a fellow widower who has long since remarried and started a new family. He was at the wheel, full steam ahead and under his own power while here we were being towed home by the Amsterdam police. We waved. I realized that there was considerable symbolism in the scene, but on such a lazy Saturday afternoon, I decided to let it pass.