Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Three Hour Tour: My first short story.

The story begins with an incident that has less to do with the story and more to do with the heart of this blog. My husband and I, away for a romantic getaway on the Monterey Peninsula, were driving down the coast towards the Fisherman’s Wharf. As we were stopped at a light I saw in the horizon a man running. In most accounts a man running down the street wouldn’t seem out of place, but this man was dressed in Khaki pants and an Izod collared shirt. He wasn’t overdressed by any means, but his clothes were chosen with obvious care, and were not suited in any way for running. As his presence came clearer into view I turned to my husband to comment on the peculiarity of the situation. He too had been following this man, wondering just as I had…why on earth he was running. The man was almost to the corner when our light turned green. As our car turned away from him we barely caught that the man was clutching Welches juice boxes…one in each hand. I was sure as the day was long what was happening at that moment. His worried face was clear. His demeanor harried…his posture frustrated as he waited for his crosswalk to be clear of cars. As we drove down the street I saw him run towards the beach. If we could have turned around at that moment we would have offered him assistance. But the moment was gone. We were stuck on the causeway with no chance of turning around. Familiar tears stung the corners of my eyes. I said a silent prayer for the child or loved one who was in need of the juice and then turned my attention to the view of the wharf directly in front of us.

The day was amazing. We were fortunate enough to get away on the most breathtaking weekend. Blue skies, nary a breeze…the salt air felt healing as each moment, one after another, brought perfection. As we leisurely strolled down the pier we saw the sign: Whale Watching Tours. My husband and I turned to each other and smiled. This would be the cherry on top of our perfect weekend. We signed up immediately and ran to the car to get our jackets.

This is where the real story begins gentle reader. I don’t mean to upset you…but here on I make a solemn promise to be only honest. And in being so, I promise…It will not be pretty.

We descended the stairs on the pier and jumped on the boat with enthusiasm. We found a seat on the side and chatted eagerly about the adventure ahead. We joked about the sign that did in fact state that this would be a “three hour tour.” If our tiny ship was tossed and we ended up on a desert isle, which of the cast of characters would we be? We deduced that we would take on the personas of Mr. Howl and Lovey…as they were deeply in love, and were never parted from one another. We kissed and giggled at our silliness.

Oh were we silly.

Silly silly, unknowing, silly us!

We passed a sea lion in the marina. I snapped this shot and looked to the horizon. The whales waited and I was beside myself with excitement.

It was probably 15 minutes into the trip when I realized that this was most likely a horrendous mistake.

The sun fell victim to the fog and my smile slowly faded as we headed into the depths of what seemed only to be despair. The wind was ruthless; the waves were what the captain called, “choppy.” I personally think choppy is too sweet of a word. The waves in fact were villainous, evil and dark.

With each mile I turned a darker shade of green. The exuberant faces of the passengers gave way to trepidation. The trepidation gave way to despair. Many retreated to the cabin, while the rest clutched to sides of the boat.

It turned ugly quickly. Our tourmates would run past us as hurriedly as the wind tossed boat would allow them…each of them sacrificing their lunch to the sea. Eight in all passed by within the first hour. My husband and I both hanging on by a thread. It was when we slowed to start crisscrossing the channel…that is when all went south for me. The sun was completely gone and I began shivering despite my makeshift tent I made within remains of my jacket. I abandoned my husband who refused to move a hair for fear of yacking, and retreated to the cabin.

Big. Fat. Mistake.

Carnage. Inside I found what looked like passengers overcome with the plague. Husbands and wives clinging to each other. Children puking left and right. A Grandmother crying and uttering prayer on behalf of the inhabitants there of. I wasn’t in there but 2 minutes when I knew seeing the corndog I ate for lunch would be inevitable. I went to the bar and asked for a bag to puke in where I was met with a jerkface of a man who told me I must puke off the side of the boat. I ran best I could clutching the rails of the death vessel, and made it all the way back to my husband before the puking began. I puked for a total of 10 minutes. I wasn’t able to make it to the back of the boat, so most of it flew back on to the rail. When I was finally finished I turned and tried to avoid eye contact with other passengers. They all pointed to themselves, signaling that they too had blessed the sea with such offerings.

A gentleman approached us, who my husband had personally seen throw up three times, and asked if we would object to the boat going back to the pier early. We had no objection. No one but the captain had objection. The captain refused to give up. He had a 98% success rate of whale sightings for crying out loud, and he would not turn back for a load of pansies such as ourselves.

When a whale spout was finally seen in the distance, everyone praised God and stood. A woman came onto the intercom, and like a Disneyland ride began cheerfully giving up information on whale culture. Her voice was surreal and a complete joke amongst the passengers. For the love of everything holy, we just wanted to see the fricking whales, please shut up happy voice and let us just take pictures of the stupid whales!

Now they don’t tell you that they can’t get within a few hundred yards of the whales, as they are protected. We were so far away we could just make them out. We circled them for a half hour rocking relentlessly on the waves. Finally, the cheerful voice over the intercom began apologizing profusely that our time was up, and it was time to go back to land.

The passengers cheered.

We were five minutes into our journey back when the cheerful intercom lady came by and asked if we had questions about the whales. I looked into her eyes and did not say a word. I emptied out with dagger eyes every ounce of misery I was feeling into her soul. I was about to open my mouth and unload my biting words when my husband interrupted and asked how long until we would be back to shore. “Oh, just 50 minutes or so! You’ll be feeling better soon!” To which my husband responded with jumping up and throwing up over the rails. I began to feel the familiar feeling in my throat and dreaded, more than I have talent to write, puking over the boats edge again. So I did the only thing I could. I passed out on my husband’s shoulder, forcing myself to sleep until we came into port.

I woke up drooling bits of corndog on my husband’s jacket. I looked up and my husband laughed at the site of me. Big black makeup circles under my eyes, bright red nose, tear streaks down my face…a pronounced green hue. We looked like hell. We had been through hell.

It was the three hour tour from hell. And all I had were these three pictures to show for it.

We both walked with pronounced limps back to the car, as if one of our legs was 1 foot shorter than the other. Our sea legs tortured us for the remainder of the evening…and nightmares ensued when we were warm in the inn’s feather bed.

Looking back my husband said we endeavored to complete what every great getaway requires: We made a memory. A memory we will not soon, or ever forget. A very sweet thought for sure.

Regardless…I leave you with this warning: Beware of the three hour tour. It didn’t work out so well for Gilligan…and it was only torture for me. And PS they will say anything to get you to take the tour. “It is a bit nippy,” they say…”The waves are a LITTLE choppy they say.” “Whale sightings are plentiful!” they say.

Do yourself a favor and watch a special on Animal Planet.

You probably will get better pictures too.


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