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Life on the Docks: The Calm Before The Storm

In part three, a dock dweller discovers awful surprises left by his roommates and weighs the good against the bad of bachelor life.

Panic had not set in yet. We still had a couple months of peace before we could expect the worst of the summer crowds and all the inconvenience and chaos that come with them.

I planned on making the most of these calm weekends. The sun had gotten warmer and it was perfect for having coffee on the deck of the yacht. On weekends the neighbors would come out and ensuing small talk kept all of us up to date on the local gossip. New tenants with new boats. The local yacht club waking everyone up with cannon fire late at night. Yes, these guys had a real cannon that they would shoot off out over the docks from their second story balcony inside the City Club Towers. This was a signal to all of the club members and non-members alike that the bar was open and free booze could be had by all. It meant that the men of the club were drunk and all the women had gone home out of boredom or better sense. The cannon fire was sure to wake everyone up who had turned in early. It made people mad. It made the police come, but since the entire complex was secure, they usually just called the Dock Master and he would call the rowdies and tell them to keep it down.

These were swell times. The mornings were crisp and the neighbors were nice---mostly, and the marine animals were out in force investigating the docks and looking for food to be thrown at them.

On this particular morning I was awakened by the barking of a seal. I could hear it scraping against the hull of the yacht. Wandering into the bathroom I discovered the toilet full of what looked like days and days of unflushed waste. The smell was awful. I got rid of it at once and sprayed the cabin with air freshener to cover up what was a reality of living with two middle-aged bachelors. They proved themselves to be disgusting from time to time. No wonder they were held up alone in this hulk. No woman would tolerate this behavior for long.

In a matter of moments they were both out of their cabins whispering in panicked voices to “not flush that damned toilet. Divers are outside under the docks looking for lost jewelry and watches and stuff.”

“Who gives a damn! That was a shameful mess. What do divers have to do with flushing the damned toilet? How old are you anyway?”

My roommates look to their feet for a second and giggled out an embarrassed series of laughs. The owner pulled me aside and reminded me that we were “technically” not supposed to be living on the yacht full time. Only on the weekends. Then he told me that we were breaking a host of other rules. One in particular was that the toilet on the yacht did not flush into a septic tank. It flushed directly into the water under the docks. Whenever there are people swimming outside like the divers that come along every once in a while, it was important to not flush the toilet. Because it turns the water into a brown cloud that can be seen by anyone in the water or passing by in a skiff close to the water line. He asked me nicely to ignore a full toilet in the future and use the bathrooms and showers in the City Club Towers. I agreed.

I was suddenly glad I had never gone swimming along the docks.

The blatant polluting of marina waters was not the only horror story that I became privy to on the yacht. Every two weeks or so one or all of us would get symptoms of a stomach virus. We could never figure out why. One Saturday morning I found out why.

We all shared a common kitchen with a small fridge. I rarely kept food in it, just sodas and bar mixers. However, my roommates kept raw meat in there---unwrapped meaty food items that spoiled quickly. On this particular morning I found a steak that had been cut in half and placed raw on the shelf of the fridge---right next to my drinks. It smelled bad and I roused my roomies to clean the fridge and throw their dead meat out. No wonder we were getting sick. Airborne contagion was getting on out canned sodas and beer and anything else in that tiny fridge. One sip from a can and those little microbes go right into a person’s mouth. Hence the food poisoning.

At this point I decided I was spending as much time at my girlfriend’s house as possible. Maybe I would get out of this place as soon as summer came this year. I could hold up in a fleabag hotel down the street. I had done it before. The El Astro Motel was only a couple hundred dollars a week, charged no deposit, had great maid service and free cable TV with adult channels. Clean linens and towels every night when I can home from work. And it was close to the studios where I labored. That meant an extra hour of sleep in the morning. And no cannon fire at night.

But this place had done grown on me. I liked the neighbors and the sunrises and I had even named the seals and dolphins that I saw on a regular basis. Just wish I spoke their language to tell them the water might be polluted.

The simple pleasure of waking up on weekends with a bloody mary or a mimosa and scratching my belly while looking out at the palm trees and screaming seagulls was enough to keep me here for now. After all, I had just bought a new Sector 9 long board that would get me down to the beach in just a couple minutes. I would try to tough it out for now. No one checked my membership at the yacht club or the health spa inside the towers. (That was another rule we were breaking. We were not members but were using the facilities anyway.)

I went out and bought a cooler to keep in my room so my edible food items kept clean from contagion. And the diner next door had not closed down at this time. They gave me free ice whenever I wanted it.

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