Friday, August 17, 2012

The very attentive lover

Yesterday was national tell a joke day. So, in the spirit of being a day late and a dollar short, today I'm going to tell you a quick story about a hilarious linguistic trap that I recently set for myself and quickly became ensnarled in.

Now, if you read this blog somewhat regularly, you'll know that somehow I ended up working as a Naturalist on a boat in Alaska. Which is unfortunate for all involved, because I know next to nothing about wildlife. 

Or geology. Or glaciology, botany, ornithology, biology or anything else I'm supposed to be an expert in. The things that I don't know about Alaska could fill a rather extensive collection of field guides. 

But I'm an excellent expedition guide. Safe, experienced, always on time, very well liked.

And I'm a pretty good medic- reliable, caring, knowledgeable within my limited but still useful scope of practice.

But I am the world's worst naturalist.  How my title job lept from the ideal "Expedition Guide and Boat EMT" to the frustratingly misguided "Naturalist" or worst- "Interpreter"- is something I may never understand.

Anyhow, a couple of times a week I'll end up as the naturalist on a small boat tour, motoring up to glaciers and gliding along the shoreline in search of bears and eagles. When the glaciers calve and the bears are mating on the beach, or, on one grim but fascinating tour- the daddy bear is ripping the head off the baby bear and eating it live- I don't have much talking to do. The passengers are pretty satisfied just to watch the show.

But on the days when nature isn't ponying up, I have about an hour and a half of silence to fill.
When I've run out of my basic eagle facts and my basic bear facts, I can usually get away with talking about ship life and boat lore. It's bad luck to whistle on the ship, for instance, or have a potted plant.  I'm very interested in these types of things and they tend to stick in my brain better than, say, the average weight of a humpback or the hibernation habits of a coastal brown bear.

Just the other day, I was on an extremely uneventful boat ride. We were supposed to motor up into Ford's Terror, which is like Yosemite only nine times longer, but the tide was flowing and a tidal surge prevented us from getting there. So we had an hour to kill in a pretty but unremarkable bay in Endicott Arm, looking at bits of ice and rock walls.

After exhausting all of my ice material (slush brash growlers bergie bits ice bergs glaciers, in that order) and all of my rock wall trivia (all of this rock is technically "exotic rock," please do not ask me any questions about it," I moved on to boat trivia.

"Did you know," I said to the sixteen guests, standing up in the prow of the boat. "That the word Bosun originates from the word Boatswain."

They appeared interested.

"And Swain means attentive lover. Isn't that interesting? So the Boatswain is the attentive lover of the boats." Our relief Bosun, Adam, had just told me that the day before, over dinner, and I was thrilled to have a new piece trivia for my collection.

My guests nodded, attentive in their own right. I plugged forward.

"It's like the coxswain, for rowing? The coxswain is the attentive lover of the-"
Hold up, I thought to myself. The attentive lover of the cock? That can't be right.

There was a long pause. Somewhere, from the tops of the dark granite Fjiords, an eagle cried out in distress.

"Of the what?" asked an older gentlemen in the stern of the boat.

Ladies and gentlemen, for one thousand dollars, the correct term would have been "cockpit." But, like a possum stuck in the suicidal freeze of headlights, I couldn't think. The only thing running through my head was:  Don't say attentive lover of the cock. Don't say attentive lover of the cock. Don't do it. Don't say it. Seconds dragged by.

I pulled my parachute.

I said, "The skeleton of a grizzly bear bares an eery resemblance to the skeleton of a human. Isn't that interesting?" Then I sat down.
There are many prime examples of me being a terrible naturalist, but this one really takes the cock.

12 comments:

Heather Ann said...

Such a good Lina moment. You made me smile...and that elderly gentleman, I bet.

Kate said...

You may not be the best naturalist.. but to an even more uneducated person (myself) who was just amazed by everything in Alaska....I believed everything you told me...true or not!! :)

Surndr said...

You my dear are hilarious :)

Melissa said...

My first time reading your blog. I think I'm hooked.

Adriana Iris La Dulce Vida said...

You make me laugh. It's been too long since my last comment which lets me know you have not visited me in awhile. But here I am being loyal. ;)

kimkircher.com said...

I can just hear the conversations around the dining room that night. "Dennis! Did you hear what our naturalist said today?" "I know Dear." "We are paying how much for this trip to Alaska, and all she talks about are lovers of--" "Yes Dear." "Well, I never."

At least you are providing your guests with a memorable trip!

Cassandra said...

You are a genius I love everything about this post! LOL

SJJ said...

I'm laughing out loud, even though you've told me this story in person already!! Hilarious. Miss you already, bring back more stories.

SJJ said...

I'm laughing out loud, even though you've told me this story in person already!! Hilarious. Miss you already, bring back more stories.

Jona Craig said...

Melina - hilarious! We were on the cruise between 29 July - 6 August, as "The Honeymooners"! (Jona and Louise!). Loved catchin gup with your blog (finally), and getting a look at life onboard from the crew's perspective - make than "honest" perspective! And as for your naturalist skills, nobody onboard had a clue of your ignorance, I guarantee! Thanks again for the good times - that first kayak trip to Reid glacier was so cool. Will be a regular reader from now on! Take care

Jona Craig said...

Melina - hilarious! We were on the Endeavour between 29 July - 6 August, as "The Honeymooners"! (Jona and Louise!). Loved catching up with your blog (finally), and getting a look at life onboard from the crew's perspective - make that "honest" perspective! As for your naturalist skills, fear not, I am certain none of the guests had any idea whatsoever! We loved our kayak trip to Reid glacier and the bear hunt at Iyoukeen - such an amazing trip. Will keep following you from the UAE...

Heather said...

I know this is an older post, but I just read it and am sitting here laughing out loud. Literally.