Here’s a birthday tale: who says philosophers don’t have adventures? Any parallels and life lessons I leave to my readers to draw.
A Great Escape
Last week I went to meet a friend of mine, Greg, for a nice evening boat ride. I drove over to Monty’s restaurant in Coconut Grove, parked, and went to join him on a nearby dock. He picked me up in his boat and we went for the planned boat ride, stopping off in a restaurant for dinner. It all went very smoothly and pleasantly, despite some initial logistical issues. At the end of the evening he took me back to the dock at Monty’s and then sped off. As I turned to regain solid ground (it was a floating dock) I observed that the gate through which I had entered earlier had been locked. It was 11.15 and there was no one around. I was trapped. It was dark. The gate was very high and there was no apparent way off the dock. I quickly realized that my only chance of getting back to dry land would be to get into the water and wade or swim to some rocks that led up to the road, and even then escape was not guaranteed, as the rocks were adjacent to a vertical face several feet below level land. I did not like the idea of getting into the water at all, fully clothed, and arriving drenched at valet parking in Monty’s (why was I so wet?). A pleasant evening had suddenly changed to a looming nightmare.
I noticed a small plastic boat moored to the dock and situated between the dock and some rocks. It was not long enough to span the stretch of water that needed to be traversed. If I could get into it I might be able to move it across a bit, within jumping distance of the rocks. It seemed like a long shot and quite perilous—it would be easy to fall in the water. I gripped the side of the dock with my hands and extended my leg in the direction of the narrow bow of the boat, placing it at the tip. It dipped alarmingly. It would be hard to get back now, so I swung my other foot over, placing both feet on the end of the boat, while trying to hold as much of my weight as possible with my hands. I managed to keep my balance and transferred my weight over to the tiny boat, which was clearly not designed for standing up in (I would have toppled over if it weren’t that I kept my grip on the dock). I edged up the boat crabwise and reached the stern, but it was still about five feet from the rocks, which looked slippery and inclined steeply down to the water. The question was whether the boat’s ropes would allow me to move it over a few feet. They did, but it was still a couple of feet between the boat and the rock.
Still gripping the side of the dock with my hands I aimed one foot at the rock, ready to brace for the slip. My foot stayed in place, so I brought the other one over, with most of my weight held by hands (I had to be thankful for them). I was now on the good side of the water, but still marooned on the rocks, in an even worse position than before. The trouble was that ground level was about five feet above me with nothing to pull myself up with. So the prospect of a night on the rocks was still with me. Then I saw a plant growing up from the rocks on the side of the dock—could I use that? It didn’t look very promising. I edged over to it, still being careful not to slip down the rocks into the water, causing both injury and saturation. One of the stalks had been cut: it was about an inch in diameter and very wet looking. My only hope was put my foot on it, push up while grabbing the dock, and try to pull myself onto land. It looked pretty risky: if my foot slipped as I pushed up, I would come down hard on the rock and tumble into the water. But I had little choice. Very gingerly I pushed up with the left foot, as squarely as possible, and it didn’t slip sideways. I was now balancing on one foot on a one-inch diameter stalk, the other foot lightly resting on the rest of the plant. Now I needed to hoist myself up by my arms and heave my body onto the flat land. I called upon all my earlier training as a gymnast and yanked myself up as hard as possible, scrambling to get my body over the rim of the dock. It worked: I was now lying face down on the ground, with legs dangling. I got to my feet (that was no trouble, comparatively).
I wandered over to valet parking, not wet at all, paid my fee to the valet guy, and drove silently home.