Tourists can be a pain in the ass sometimes. They come to our fair islands from strange lands bringing with them unusual customs, bizarre styles of clothing, and the occasional highly contagious disease. But if you learn how to deal with them, and get a shot now and then, you can cope. Be a little patient, understand that they are lost, dazed and confused, and make sure that when they cross the line from mildly irritating to full blown obnoxiousness, you know where all the critters higher on the food chain hang out…so it’s easier to dispose of said tourist.
Then, on the other hand, there are the locals. Those of us who live here. We who starve and sacrifice to make it here at the most expensive end of the earth on the planet. Locals come in all shapes and sizes and for the most part, we all get along because we all are in the same struggle together. Trying to squeeze out enough money to make it another month on the rock while occasionally enjoying such luxuries as flushing toilets and electricity. And of course for many, having enough left over to have a good time, or in some cases having a good time first, then worrying about where to take a leak and find enough juice to charge up the ol’ iPhone. So when you are able to put a few dollars together, and have some time off to actually enjoy some of those touristy type entertainment thingies, it’s a treat. Maybe take a sail, go diving, or in the case of Saturday afternoon, rent some kayaks and go have a picnic on a beach someplace. Such was the case over the weekend, and as a result, yours truly got to have a rather unpleasant Saturday night. Lemme ‘splain:
Saturday morning I got to take an easy 3 hour kayak tour with a very nice couple from Colorado. Weather was perfect, water was clear, and they had a big time. Got back, cleaned up the gear, shut everything down, and headed home around 2:00 pm. 5 minutes after I walked onto the boat, got a call. 7 people wanted to rent kayaks. So I threw on my sweaty clothes, and pedaled back to the marina. When I got there, 7 kids, I call them kids but they were all early to mid 20’s, so yeah, kids, were waiting and quite anxious to get out on the water. I found out later they were annoyed that I did not show up instantly when they got there and bugged the hell out of the marina manager.
They had coolers, bags, a couple cases of beer, and some fresh fried chicken that reeeeaaallly smelled good, considering I had not eaten all day yet. And they were in a big hurry.
First we had to haggle. They made a point to announce that they were all locals, one bragged that he had lived in Key West all his life, and assumed that they were entitled to a “locals discount”. This is a very common misconception up and down the Keys. Just because you live here, you should get to do all those cool things the tourists do, but for less money. For the person providing the entertainment, it means making less money to kiss the asses of the locals who may or may not recommend you to the tourists. Based on what happen this Saturday afternoon, I suspect I won’t be getting any recommendations.
So we haggled, they wanted to pay $20 per boat, we charge $20 per person. A difference of $40. Too bad. I, being the kind and considerate gentle being that I am, said $20 per person, take it or leave it. They bitched, moaned, whined, and sniveled, and then started throwing money my way. Then they ran for the kayaks, none of which were ready to go. Did I mention they were in a hurry?
So after much rushing around, they acted more like 2 year olds than 20 somethings, we got them launched and into the water, with the promise to be back before dark, around 7. I made sure they had my phone number, as I was getting a bad feeling about this rental and in hindsight, I should have sent them up the street to the competition rather than fool with it, but alas, I needed the money. So off they went to have their party, while I waited around the marina…and waited…and waited…and waited.
A little bit after 7:00 after the marina had closed, everyone else went home, and I was there by myself, tired, hungry, hot, and thirsty, I got the call. I knew it was going to be bad news as soon as I saw their number, and sure enough.
According to them, one of the kayaks “sprung” a leak and kept sinking. So they managed to nurse it and the other kayaks over to of all places, the fuel dock at the marina where I live, put everything on the dock and were leaving. So I hightailed it back to the marina and as they said, there was all my rental equipment. They did stay long enough until I got there and I thought sure I was going to hear demands for a refund, but they appeared to be in the early throes of post drunkeness and were heading home, leaving me with 5 kayaks and gear strewn all over you know who’s part of the marina.
But wait! There’s more!
I called up the owner of said kayaks, explained the situation, and we agreed that I would simply move the kayaks and gear over onto my slip and then he would come by in the morning with the skiff to pick everything up. No problem, except it was getting dark, I was covered in sweat, dirt, tired, hungry, thirsty, and not in a particularly good mood.
The first thing I did was go inform security so they didn’t panic when they come by the fuel dock and see a bunch of kayaks laying around. I knocked on the door of the security shed, the woman who does security that night came out, recognized me and asked what I needed. The moment I said, “There are 5 kayaks and gear on the fuel dock.”, her eyes rolled completely into the back of her head. She stomped outside, slamming the door behind her. I truly believe that if she had a gun she would have drawn it.
“Stop, stop, stop,” I said, “Just stop”. I then explained what happened. Renters, sinking boat, etc., and that I was about to move the kayaks and gear over to my slip. She calmed down, her eyes returned to their sockets, and all was right with the world. I did, after all, interrupt her game of solitaire on the computer. So off I went to get a dock cart to start moving gear and boats around. I thought about just paddling all the boats over and tying them off to my boat, but there just wasn’t enough room but for one or two, so I decided to just move them by cart, which turned out to be not as easy as I thought it would be.
On the first trip back to pick up a load, there was a bonus. A family on a boat, 3 adults, 3 young kids had come in from of day of fun on the water. They had pulled up directly beside where my kayaks were sitting and began to unload their gear. In the meantime, the kids decided that three of the kayaks would make great play toys, and began to jump and walk on them. The parents paid no attention to them. When I got there I walked over and mustering up as much patience and politeness as I could, considering my deteriorating physical condition, I asked if they would kindly not allow their kids to play on my expensive kayaks. The reply I got was a rather terse:
“Well, don’t leave them laying around.”
Now, I don’t know how any of you other fritters were raised, but I was taught to not touch or fool with property that didn’t belong to me. Such instruction usually came in the form of the back of the hand across the side of my head. These parents, apparently had other methods of instructing their heathen spawn how to act. Since I was tired, and out numbered, I said nothing more, and went about moving gear and kayaks.
The gear moved fine, got it all in one load, threw it all on the back of my boat and started in on the boats. Three of the boats were singles and although it was a struggle, I did manage to get them onto the cart and moved, one at a time. By the time I reached the tandem, the one that had allegedly sprung a leak, (turns out the beach they were partying on was rather rocky which goes a long way in explaining said leak), it was a real struggle. The boat fell off the cart several times and by the end I was just dragging it on the cement to my slip.
By the way, did I mention I had an audience by now?
Seems several of my neighbors were out enjoying their Saturday night, drinking on the dock as usual, and my struggles were no doubt entertaining them to no end. One particular girl just kept watching me and smiling the whole time as I sweated and yanked those fucking boats back.
Did I also mention that not one son of a bitch on the dock got off their fat ass and offered to help?
My neighbor next door, who keeps his docks full of junk, the one with the four bikes, five cars, five boats, airplane and all, actually muttered something under his breath about keeping kayaks on the dock. Apparently it’s a violation of the dock rules. A rule that he and several others pay no attention too.
Somebody else watched me struggle to get the tandem unloaded and on the slip and then wanted to know what a used kayak cost. I quietly informed him that now was not the time to be asking me anything about kayaks.
“Could you find out later?”, he asked as I walked by, sweat pouring off my hurting body.
There are many reasons why I don’t keep a gun on my boat. Saturday night was one of them.
Finally, I got the last kayak over, I did paddle it, and I was done. I crawled into the boat, drank about four glasses of water, lemonade, and tea, and just let the sweat pour off me for a few minutes. I thought these kind of days were over but I guess I was wrong. By now it was past 9:00. Any chance of finding some supper was long gone. I grabbed my towel, always know where your towel is, and limped off to take a long hot shower. On my way to the bathhouse, the woman who was grinning at me the whole time through this ordeal saw me coming.
“How are you doing tonight?”, she said rather sarcastically.
“Just fucking peachy.”, being a master of sarcasm, I replied.
Not knowing enough to shut up, she said, “You look like you have been working.”
“Yes, I have”, I said, also overcoming the willpower to not speak, “Thanks so much for pointing that out you fat, fucking, drunken, whore”.
She stopped grinning at me and I suspect, we have had our first and last conversation.
One thing I have learned over the years, is if you see somebody who is down. Hot, sweaty, tired, and beaten. You either offer to help, or leave them the hell alone. You don’t kick them when they are down. And that is how I felt Saturday night as I was moving those kayaks around. I haven’t been that close to many of my neighbors, I barely know peoples names, but I have on occasion offered to help if I saw anyone needing something. I pretty much keep to myself, and don’t complain when the drunks are getting drunk, the music is playing too loud, or somebody has their school science project spread out all over the dock. But after this weekend, they can all kiss my ass.
I know where I stand around here, and it’s alone. I will never be able to rely on any of these assholes if I needed help, and that’s fine. I got along without them before and I will after. Don’t expect me to engage any of them in conversation, they will be lucky to get a nod when I walk by. They are not welcome on my slip, and especially on my boat.
As for Sunday morning, the skiff came by, we loaded up all the kayaks and gear, and headed back to clean everything. I finally got finished and back to the boat early Sunday afternoon. As I was walking, more like limping, back to the boat, my neighbor, casually said, “I see you got all the kayaks out of there.”
“Yup”, I replied. That will probably be the last civil word he gets out of me.
It took me the rest of the day to recover from all the work. I was overly dehydrated and quite hungry, this heat really sucks the energy right out of you. But still very much pissed off at the local scene here at the marina and on the island. I’ve never had many friends and it looks like that trend will continue. If these assholes who live here in the marina didn’t much care for me before, they will be liking me a whole lot less. I have no idea how much longer I will be living here, be it a month or a year, but I am sure that the day I move out, it will make everyone very happy, but not as happy as I will be.