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Boating: No good deed goes unpunished!

December 12, 2012
By boatguy Ed , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It was a snowy Christmas Eve some 40 years ago. Just like being in a freshly shaken snow globe. I was just locking up the front door to my boat dealership, literally had my key in the lock and the alarm set when I heard the spinning of tires on the snow and slush covered highway. I paused and turned just in time to see a car fish tale into the ditch in front of my place, roll over and strike one of the used boats in my parking lot. Merry Christmas!

The car rolled back and upright and, for a second, I considered going around back, getting in my truck and going home. Then I saw a flicker of flame beneath the other boats lined up along the road. Instinctively, I unlocked the door and raced into my office. On the wall was a commercial-sized fire extinguisher, and on my desk was my Canon AE1camera that I used to take pictures of used boats, etc.

I grabbed both and bolted through the front door. The last thing on my mind was resetting the alarm. As I squeezed between the boats I saw that the flicker of flame had become a pool of flame under the car. A young motorist had stopped but he didn't have an extinguisher, so I handed him my camera with the flash whining as it readied for a picture and opened the driver's door. As I pulled him out, I saw a flash go off several times.

I fell on my backside more than once trying to pull the semi-conscious driver away from the vehicle but I was feeling good because of the continuing flashes of my camera. The insurance company would have all the proof they needed to sue the heck out of the driver's insurance company.

Once the semi-conscious driver was away from his vehicle, I picked up the extinguisher, pulled the pin and gave the undercarriage a good shot. Then I stuck my head in the open car door looking for passengers. I only found wrapped Christmas presents but the fire was still burning. Another motorist and I emptied our fire extinguishers but the fire kept creeping back.

I ran back into my store and found two more fire extinguishers. When I came out, the entire world of emergency vehicles had landed on my property and out on the highway. The fire trucks sprayed foam under and in the car while ambulance workers loaded the driver into their vehicle. A very short 20 minutes had passed but all was well. Or so I thought.

The first sign of trouble was the absence of the young photographer. I wasn't worried because the police had cordoned off the road. I was sure he'd been chased away, but he would return soon. Like I said I wasn't worried but when the State Highway Patrol began taking measurements and pictures, I wondered why they were looking at me and scowling.

"Are these boats always so close to the road," the snow covered young 'Statey' asked me while dripping on my showroom floor. All the senior emergency responders were drinking from a new pot of my coffee inside out of the cold, leaving just the rookies to direct traffic.

"They are inside my property line. When they four-laned the road, they took the right-of-way up to my property so that ditch is the only thing left," I said. I was trying to be as pleasant as possible because junior was going to write the official report. It worried me when he refused my offer of a coffee.

The radios were all squawking a lot but I didn't pay any attention until I heard my alarm companies named mentioned. I suddenly realized that I hadn't reset the alarm. I did that immediately but not soon enough. Sgt. Grinch was in the middle of writing my ticket for false reporting of an incident. Seems that our town had an ordinance that forbade alarms going off for no good reason but I wasn't worried because this was a pretty good reason. Anyway, how much could the ticket be? Try $150! I was a repeat offender because some branches had brushed the building and set of the alarm before. Merry Christmas!

After most of them left, I repositioned the damaged boat and straightened up the lot. The young 'Statey' gave me a lecture on road hazards. I started to argue but bit my tongue because I wanted to get home to a warm drink, a warm kiss from my wife and a warm fire on Christmas Eve.

I looked around one last time for the young man who had my camera. I told myself that he'd be around next week. I had another camera at home so, no big deal, right? And, as my four-wheeled drive truck wove around the cars that were run off the snow-covered road and up against the trees, I wasn't tempted in the least to stop and help. I needed a Pabst Blue Ribbon to wash down that night, Christmas Eve.

Reminiscing about occurrences 40 years past is ironically funny and sometimes not quite accurate but what is not funny is the people suffering after Hurricane Sandy this Christmas. Hurry up FEMA! They need the help. And where the heck has the Red Cross been?

Boatguy Ed is the manufacturer of Super Shipbottom Anti-fouling Bottom Paint,, a retired television producer and past Commander of the "Dead End Canal Yacht Club." Although he is quite sociable, never try to buy him a drink!



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