Somehow it has become my job to reregister our little aluminum fishing boat so we can troll for mackerel on July 4. The whole family is at our oceanfront cottage, “The SeaWitch,” in Maine and I want to fish mostly as a means of getting away from all the familiness that has started to suffocate me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my in-laws, but after several days of being rained-in in a small camp with everybody lolling around eating and drinking and then eating some more and listening to the Red Sox lose … even fishing sounds fabulous.
I bound up the steps of our Down East city hall, where there are a few workmen replacing some granite stairs. All of a sudden I get the distinct feeling that my khaki skirt is way too short as I walk up above them. I tug my hem to see if I can cover another inch or two of exposed thigh. I look behind me, and sure enough, a worker averts his eyes. I want to yell, “Are you kidding me? I’m a flippin’ senior citizen, for gawd sake” as I huff and slam the heavy front door and enter the city offices.
I walk to the desk that registers boats, where I did the exact same thing last summer. I figure it’s a piece of cake. They’ll have us in the database and I’ll be out of here in a jiffy. Unfortunately, that is not at all how it plays out. It is the day before July 4 vacation and the registrar is a youngish woman and she does not appear to be in such a terrific mood.
Nevertheless, I give her an attempted dazzling smile and explain that I’d like to reregister our little fishing boat before the holiday. With absolutely no affect, she taps the keyboard with 3-inch-long plastic nails and then squinches her brow.
“We don’t have anything under your husband’s name with that date of birth owning a boat.”
I take a deep breath. “That’s interesting. I registered the boat right here at this very desk a year ago. It is a 1981 12-foot long aluminum Grumman with a 4.5 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor.”
“Nope. Nothing.” She starts to turn away to wait on the next customer.
“Wait. Wait … this is not working for me. You have to have this registration. I paid you $40 last summer.”
She taps the keyboard harder, this time with emphasis to make her point. She sighs and flips her hair. I respell Tom’s last name again and say his birth date very slowly.
“I’m telling you we don’t have anything with that name in the computer with a boat.”
I pinch the bridge of my nose to try to prevent the gathering migraine.
She moves on to the next customer in line.
I go back out to my car and call Tom on his cell. He is getting lobsters from our friend Perry Long on Newbury Neck. Tom says to just register the boat as if it is a new boat and forget it was ever registered before if it is so problematic. Okey dokey, sure. Fab idea.
I go back in and stand in line. When it is my turn she says, “Weren’t you just here?”
“Yes, but I’d like to register a new boat.”
“OK, but you have to have a bill of sale.”
Obviously, I don’t have a bill of sale because we’ve already registered the freakin’ boat. I slam my purse down on the counter. I’m about to have a stellar conniption-fit, but instead, I regain my composure.
I plead shamelessly, “OK, look. I’m sure we can resolve this like adults. You’ve got to have the information … and I’ve got to register my boat. I’m trying to do the honest thing here and I’m trying to give you my money.”
She makes a huge sound of exasperation and says, threateningly, “Well, you’re just going to have to talk to Bill in Augusta.”
“OK, terrific, let’s get Bill on the line.” Bring him on. I’m feeling semi-encouraged.
She picks up a phone as though she can’t believe this is really happening and speaks into the mouthpiece with clipped words, “Bill, there is a lady here who is very persistent. She won’t leave until she can register her boat.” To emphasize her point, she does a dramatic eye roll for the people behind me in line. She hands the phone to me.
I greet Bill thankfully and give him the same information. I wait for about two lifetimes while he checks the state database and he finally drawls back.
“No, deah, the only thing we got under Tom Lajoie with that birth date is a U-Haul.”
“We don’t own a U-Haul.”
“Well, sure you do, deah. It was registered last yeah.”
I’m beginning to feel like I am stuck in a perverse “Burt & I” skit … like “You Can’t Get There From Heah”… only this is “You Don’t Really Own a Boat …You Own a U-Haul.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. We don’t own a U-Haul.”
“Yuh. That’s all we got. Anything else I can help you with, deah?”
I make a sound like a strangling cat. I can feel my blood pressure throbbing. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m about to get a nose bleed.
“Listen, Bill, before you hang up. Can you read to me the description of our U-Haul?”
“Shoah. It’s a 1981 12-foot-long aluminum Grumman U-Haul.”
“Let me guess, this U-Haul has a 4.5 Evinrude outboard motor?”
“Ayuh! How did you know, deah?”
The huffy registrar registers my U-Haul/boat but she’s clearly annoyed that I have caused so many problems for her and her patient customers.
The next day, I’m talking this over with Tom, trying to come to grips with what happened.
Tom turns to me, his eyes wide, and he says, “Do you suppose it could possibly be because we originally told them our boat was a V-Hull?”
Yes. Yes, I do suppose … deah.
Carol Leonard is a midwife and is the author of the memoir, “Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, A Midwife’s Saga,” Bad Beaver Publishing, 2010.