Monday, October 02, 2006

one of the only times i went swimming and didn't enjoy it at all

When I was 18, I earned extra money babysitting some of the children who lived around the lake. Even though it was less than 15 years ago, I was only making $3 an hour per child... not very much cash, but since I enjoyed the company of children it seemed more like I was getting paid to play with them all day and make them lunch.

I didn't count on the crazy things that can sometimes happen when you are babysitting.

Like the baby bat that one of my charges caught during the daytime somehow and snuck into her parents' house while I was in charge. I might never have known about it until it got loose and hung on a light fixture above the television, probably terrified and trying to make itself disappear. It was so little that I almost missed it.

Until he started squeaking during one of the zillions of Barney (the damn purple dinosaur) videos that the Bat-napper's little brother loved to watch. As the little one sang and danced with the video, the bat decided he'd had enough (can't blame him) and decided to try and fly out one of the (closed) picture windows at the front of their cottage.


He dropped like a stone. Poor little guy knocked himself right out.

The Bat-napper let out a shriek and ran over to see if her new pet was okay, followed by me demanding to know why she let a bat go free inside the house. Her only response to this was that she had a cage for him but he "got out".

As we bent over the bat, arguing over the fact that he needed to live outside in the trees or wherever bats live with their families as opposed to a cage in a little girl's bedroom, he suddenly squeaked again, rolled over and took off like a shot for the ceiling.

Anybody who's been unlucky enough to find a bat in the house knows how difficult it is to catch / herd them. Pillows, pillow cases, a badminton racket, a popsicle (the Barney-watchers idea), a couch cushion, a sweater, and at least 1 slice of bread (Bat-napper thought it would be a good treat for him and that he'd fly out the door after it) were used to convince the baby bat that he'd be better off outdoors.

Several hours later we finally did get him outside after corraling him with the help of two neighborhood kids, a couch cushion and a butterfly net.

That's the last time I ever saw a bat around during the daytime.

Move ahead 4 weeks.

Same family. Same house. Same children. A whole new "crisis"...

Another beautiful afternoon at Ella Lake. My friend T is with me, helping me babysit the Barney-watcher and his Bat-napping sister, as well as the middle child - a boy who had a strange resemblence to that kid in Jerry McGuire. You know - that kid.

We're enjoying a lovely afternoon singing songs, and watching the little one throw a stone into the lake, then clap for himself, then throw another (repeat 100 times). Very cute and somewhat distracting...

I should have kept a sharper eye on the Jerry McGuire Kid (we'll call him JMK).

Little JMK was a helpful lad who always wanted to dry dishes or sweep the floor or pick up his little brother's toys. That day, he decided to grab a little plastic bucket and scoop out the rainwater that had "falled" into his daddy's boat. Since the boat was tied (very securely I might add) and we were right there, I let him bail out the boat to his heart's content.

After giving a round of applause for the little one's rock-throwing abilities, I hear

"Hey! That boat's really sinking fast!"

To this day, I can still remember this moment as clearly as if it just happened. Little JMK standing in the middle of his daddy's boat, a bewildered / amused look on his face as his little yellow bucket falls out of his hands and splashes into the boat.


I immediately jump up and run onto the dock, where I can see something made out of rubber and plastic in JMK's little hand.

"Oh please", I'm thinking, "please don't let that be what I think it is..."

It was.

For those of you not familiar with motorboats, many of them (especially older ones) have holes in the back near the motor that can be unplugged while the boat is moving to drain out water. Since this is done while the boat is skimming over the lake, the water drains out - and none comes in. I remember watcing many people conduct this maneouver in my life and always thought it was pretty cool... apparently so did JMK.

"JMK - please tell me that's the not the boat plug!"

"Ya... what's the problem? I took it out so the water would drain out - my arms were getting tired from bailing"

"Okay", said with the tone of a police officer trying to talk a potential jumper off the ledge of a 30 story building, "Okay JMK, reach down and push the plug back into the hole. Quickly please!"

He starts to cry. "I'm SCARED! I don't like putting my head under water!"

As his sobs grow louder, I notice the boat beginning to move. Downwards. Knowing that action had to be taken immediately or I'd have to find a way to tell these kids' parents that their boat was 6 feet under (literally) - I grabbed JMK out of the boat, tore off my jeans and jumped into the lake.

My thought was that I could stand on the bottom of the lake and reach down into the boat to push the plug into place. As JMK stood wide-eyed on the dock with my giggling friend, I gently pulled the side of the boat towards me and made my attempt to reach inside.

My arms were about a foot too short to make it. Sighing, I decided that since I would sink the boat even faster if I got into it to put in the plug, I asked JMK if he felt brave enough to try again.

Sniff, sniff "NOoooooooo"

Things were getting desperate now. I damned the laws of physics to hell and back as I watched the ropes holding the sinking boat begin to strain. Realizing that now the dock itself was in danger, I had no choice but to untie it. As my friend untied the ropes, I attempted to hold it upright (in my youthful arrogance) so it wouldn't tip over. Not only was I not strong enough - or big enough - to hold the boat up, it refused to behave and started rolling to the right.

Demanding that the kids SIT RIGHT THERE AND DON'T MOVE - my friend took off HER pants and jumped into the water too.

The only good she did was keeping it from tipping over. As we stood there, holding onto a sinking boat, we realized that there was nothing to be done and had to admit defeat. I giggled hysterically, thinking that JMK's parents were going to kill me and perhaps sue my parents for the price of a new boat or something. At the very least, I was NEVER going to babysit again.


I'd like to call it rock bottom, but the lake's pretty sandy.

I ducked underwater and put the plug into it's proper place. While I was under, I noticed a minnow curiously swimming around the motor, then behind one of the seats.

That did it. I pulled myself out of the water, wrapped a towel around my soaking wet self, tossed one to my friend and hauled the kids indoors. The little one was way late for his nap, and after all of the excitement took twice as long to go to sleep. Once he was sleeping happily, I made my way back into the living room where my friend and the little boat-sinker were sitting in front of the TV, eating popsicles. We wrapped up in towels and put the clothes into the dryer.

I refused to look out the window for the next hour. As the little one slept, I had to make the dreaded Phone Call to the Parents to tell them something had happened. Decided that Mommy would be the best one to call first (after all it wasn't HER boat), I took a deep breath and dialed the number.

As I explained what had happened, I noticed that she hadn't said a word. Didn't make a sound. Interpreting this as the result of extreme anger, I started babbling about how sorry I was and how poor JMK had no idea that it would sink the boat if he pulled the plug while it wasn't moving and oh isn't your little boy a cutie for wanting to help his daddy like that! Still silence. She asked me to call her husband to repeat the story.

Now I'm getting upset because I think I'm in major trouble.

I can still remember dialing his work number with trembling hands, clutching their giant towel around me as I tried to think up ways to pay for the boat that would undoubtedly be ruined.

I went through the story again, using as much detail as I could remember. Again, there was no response. Then in a choked voice, he asked me if the boat had in fact landed on the bottom of the lake.

"oh yes!" I cried, "I heard the sound when it hit bottom. But don't worry about the dock or anything - I untied the boat when we realized we couldn't save it"


Now I'm thinking "at least say something! yell at me - tell me I'm a terrible babysitter - just say SOMETHING!"

"Okay Melinda, Um... thanks for calling... um... cough... I'll have to take care of it when I get home from work."

As it turns out the silence was a result of them trying very hard not to laugh at their distressed babysitter who thought this was the end of the world (dramatic little teenager that I was). I found out years later that as soon as we hung up, they got on the phone and spent 15 minutes laughing their asses off.

The rest of the afternoon involved several children from around the lake running to their cottage to exclaim over how "cool" it was that their boat had sunk. Even the kids' older sister (the bat-napper) laughed and thought it was just hilarious. Ya. Funny.

The kids' mom got home first, paid me, and sent me on my way after asking very few questions and agreeing to get her husband to call my dad for help when he got home. She didn't look that angry at all.

While we trudged (and I mean trudged) back to my camp, JMK's daddy drives past us on his way home. One look at us and...

(you might have guessed this)

he bursts out laughing - these huge, unstoppable belly laughs that left us both shocked. He couldn't even get a word out he was laughing so hard.

I thought he'd gone crazy. He shook his head and started to drive, leaving behind the sound of his laughing and the crunch of truck tires on a dirt road.

By the time 7pm rolled around, the entire lake knew about "Melinda and the sunken boat". The kids' father had to call most of the men around the lake to ask for help in hauling it out - the story was repeated over and over again, apparently with the punch line being the miserable expressions my friend and I had on our faces as we walked home.

I didn't think it was funny at all.

There's a boat in the bottom of the lake
There's a boat in the bottom of the lake
There's a boat
There's a boat
There's a boat in the bottom of the lake!

There's a minnow in the boat in the bottom of the lake
There's a minnow in the boat in the bottom of the lake
There's a boat

There's a boat
There's a boat in the bottom of the lake!

I got a little bit of revenge telling this story in front of JMK's friends as he got older.

"Hey - did you ever hear the story about JMK sinking his dad's boat?! No? Oh have a seat... It's a good one..."


  • At 9:21 PM, Blogger ledawit said…

    holly crap lday !! stop writting soo much !!! i cant keep up with all these posts you know ... i do have many other things that are occupying me right now so sorry if i have been neglecting my job as a friend to read your posts and comment on them ... you have the amount of spare time in your life i want back in mine ... :P:P:(
    anyhow miss you and i will do my best to call you at the end of this week :)

  • At 12:02 AM, Blogger Beechball * said…

    I still don't get why they were laughing? what was so funny? had they been planning on getting rid of it or something? or was it just the fact that you were freaking out - I would have been pissed if it makes you feel any better, lol

  • At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    And now the world knows!!! Hope byndsay leech rereads this blog. She will learn that some things in life, especially when kids are involved have to be laughed at. (This way you don't commit murder) Just picture this little blond hair boy thinking he is helping his beloved daddy and sinking the boat. These people were not laughing at Melinda just the situation. You must admit the image it puts into your head is quite funny. Someone who knows. Love you.

  • At 1:45 AM, Blogger Melinda said…

    I'd apologize for the length of the post except... when you don't have a TV or any money to go out with, you tend find other things to amuse you ;)

    Lyndsay - anonymous actually nailed it... when little kids are involved (at the time people on the lake thought I was still one even at 18), things like sinking an old motorboat to "help daddy drain out the water" is something they all thought was super cute and just plain funny. I of course was furious and worried and overdramatic about the whole thing, which only made them laugh harder. See, the boat wasn't ruined, it just needed 10 men to haul it out of the water so it could spend a week drying out ;)

    even if you don't find that funny, just get the image of an 18 year old girl trying to hold a sinking 10-foot motorboat up... as pissed as I was - I still laugh when i think about that :)


    ps. heehee ledawit - now i have a long comment too :P

  • At 8:51 AM, Blogger Laura Coubrough said…

    well I'm glad you are just amusing yourself because I was worried that you might be getting a little homesick.
    I know I was and I was only away for 2 weeks. Just let us know if you need a Canadian care package ;)

  • At 12:40 PM, Blogger Melinda said…

    oooh Canadian Care package!! Always assume yes to that! heehee i could only imagine what you'd put into it - maple syrup maybe? lol

    miss you lots (Canada too, but yes, I was just amusing myself with the story)

  • At 2:19 PM, Blogger thestraightpoop said…

    THANK YOU for blogrolling me!! I will respond in like kind, as soon as I can. (Am sneaking this in from work...shhhhhhh!!)

  • At 5:04 PM, Blogger Suldog said…

    Excellent, excellent story. Very well-written. Thanks for the good read!

  • At 5:12 PM, Blogger Melinda said…


    thanks Suldog! glad you enjoyed it :)


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