Date: 8/24/2012 5:04:00 AM
We were taking a stroll around the harbor front, watching the sun go down over the Lake Ontario. M shouted "look there" and five eager faces turned to see a huge board bearing the words "Boats/Canoes for rentals". The next thing we knew, we were in there chatting with the guy at the reception.
"How long are you renting for?" the canoe owner asked.
"We're thinking of paddling to the island and back. That will take an hour and a half I guess," replied M.
"Wonderful. All six of you going?"
Yes. The six of us then signed a paper that claimed the canoe owner should not be held responsible if we ended up inside a shark or something. I guess none of us read through the paper before signing it. We were too excited to get on the water.
"Any of you know swimming?"
We all looked at each other expectantly. That's when we realized we have gotten ourselves into a pretty good mess. Six non-swimmers venturing out into one of the largest lakes in the world. Sounds exciting, machi.
"We have life jackets," I pointed out the silver-lining.
"When the boat topples, life jackets will keep you afloat. How are you guys gonna swim back?" he asked, fixing his gaze on G as though to suggest that a canoe bearing an overgrown male is bound to topple. G looked offended.
"Surely help would be on the way?"
"The Island is quite far and usually deserted. A perfect setting for a murder I would imagine," he chuckled.
The last thing on our minds was to paddle our way to our graves. Sure, the lake looked beguiling and all that, but I want to live to see India winning a gold medal in hockey, thank you very much. But the sly dog that he is, he breathed not a word about the potential life-ending risks involved until we paid him. And there would be no refund. Yeah, right, that's company policy. Periya Kekaran Mekaran company! I so wanted to take him along and murder him in the setting he was so bragging about. Too many wily schmucks in the world and not enough tigers to eat them.
And then he revealed to us the only way out of the soup: he'd would send along with us one of his men, an expert lifeguard and also a skillful canoer. Steering the canoe is a skill that's apparently beyond novices so he'd steer it for us while we paddled away. A perfect solution. Only, it came at the cost of few more freshly minted papers. The guy knows the Achilles heel of his customers - the fear of death.
That's how we paid for the service we scarcely required. Once or twice we were scared out of our wits when our canoe rocked precariously in the wake of passing motorboats. But otherwise we were in control. We even decided on the color of our outfit when we participate in the next Olympics in canoeing. I told you, we are all geniuses. :-D It was a great ride but the greatest ride was had by Mr. Expert-canoer-cum-lifeguard. He settled himself near the nose of the canoe and barely moved till the end. He was just a happy passenger who was being shown around the lake by six sweating, grunting, panting, paddling nincompoops.