Here’s something inspired by the end of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and an encounter with another boater.
An admission: I am infuriated by discourteous boaters. Those who are in a weird rush (don’t go on a narrowboat then!) or want to speed past moored boats (it’s not a race and our stuff falls over!) or put a lock down when you’re coming up to it (it’s a waste of bloody water!). And so on.
There was just such a boater at the end of the Huddersfield Narrow, who was quite uppity about getting past our boat, having just come up the lock, while we were waiting to go down (and assisting with the lock).
So I used one of the exercises from Margret Geraghty‘s excellent resource, The Five-Minute Writer. It’s a very useful book of stimuli, the idea of which (duh) is to get you writing for five minutes a day. The thing I love about the book is how she gives an example from literature, as well as some background to it psychologically (having also studied psychology) and then sets you an exercise putting these thinking skills to use.
Geraghty explains in one exercise that Delta Airlines won a customer services award for their ‘genuineness’. They trained their host/esses, when dealing with an ‘irate’ (a ranting, irrational customer) to make up a story as to why they were that angry: their wife left them this morning; they just found our they’re losing their job. That sort of thing. In doing so, they could maintain empathy and not lose their rag.
So, with that in mind, here’s something in the voice of that rude boater. I don’t anticipate winning any customer service awards for it, mind:
“My Boat Won’t Bend”
He’s in the galley before I notice him stirring,
already holding out that mug of tea.
The duck hatch wide open.
There they all are, treading water,
that bloody blank quacking look
as they sup the bread he’s chucked.
Only twenty to go today, he says.
Always counting down. Always
I pick up speed just to see
if he’ll tell me to stop, scrape
through the lock so the bow, front,
head – whatever – butts slimy green.
At the top, two blokes are waiting
to come in and they’re in my way
so I say, My boat won’t bend.
But they insist, so I shove it
forward – they’re fault if it bangs.
But it doesn’t. So we slide by
and one of them says,
Have a nice day!
And he’s swinging his windlass
approaching lock number
six of thirty-two. Six of thirty-bloody-two.
I ram the boat through and there, half-
sunk, at the bottom of the lock,
a laminated sign:
Out of Order.