Make My Day
DANGIT, I SHOULDA SWUM HOME
by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- There we were, sitting on the Shepler's Mackinac Island ferry, waiting to head back to the mainland. My wife and I had just finished a long weekend on Mackinac Island, riding horses, riding our bikes, enjoying excellent meals, and discussing at great length how the name of the island was pronounced Mackinaw, and not Mackinack.
Shepler's makes the fastest Mackinac Island runs, averaging 16 minutes, compared to everyone else's deathly slow 17-minute crawl. They make thousands of trips each year, and each ferry will often carry the entire population of a small rural city.
Shepler's is one of three ferry companies that make the daily Mackinac Island run. Between the three of them, they can take the entire population of China to the island and back again. So if that's the case, what are the odds that we would sit in front of a complete goober and his wife on the trip home?
There we were, minding our own business, when some Fudgie (that's what the locals call tourists) plopped down behind us with his wife and one-year-old son. As soon as they sat down, the guy started babbling with such a thick Chicago accent, he made Jim Belushi sound like Hugh Grant.
"Lookit what I got," he told his wife, even though they had stood in the same line for 20 minutes. "Lookit this. It was on sale. I got it for $4.95."
"Yes, that's cute," she answered. Even with the engines warming up, I could hear them. Everyone on the boat could.
"Lookit! It was $4.95. He'll look good in it."
I couldn't help eavesdropping, since the guy was all but shouting in my ear. I glanced out of the corner of my eye, and saw the thing she was supposed to "lookit" at was a denim baby jumper.
"What size is it?" she asked.
"It's a 12."
"It's too small for him. He's almost outgrown his 12s. He's almost ready for 24s."
The guy really didn't say "dangit," he said the real D-word. But he said it so many times that journalistic standards and my own sense of decency make it necessary to write "dangit" instead. He said it so often that even if I knew his name, I'll always think of him as "dangit."
"Dangit!" he repeated, not being able to think of any other swear word. "I shoulda got the 24. And I can't go back."
His wife tried to reassure him. "It's all right. He can still wear it a few times."
"Dangit! I shoulda got the 24. They were right there. It was only $4.95. I shoulda got the 24!"
"I know, but he can still wear it a few times."
"Dangit! I even looked at the 24s. It looked huge. The 24s looked huge! Dangit! I can't go back."
Dangit's wife didn't say anything. I glanced back over my left shoulder and saw that she was just staring out the window, watching the people get on the ferry. Something told me she was used to this, and was just waiting for him to shut up. Something also told me she was going to wait for a long time.
But Dangit would not be deterred. He was going to obsess over this for hours. Gravity was going to change before this guy did.
"Dangit. It just looked so cute. Dangit. I can't go back. I shoulda got the 24. It was only $4.95. I shoulda got them both for that price."
She still stared out the window. The engines gunned, and we moved away from the dock. I thought I would have to strain to hear the guy, but I didn't have to worry. His misery penetrated the rumble of the engines.
"Dangit. I told you we shoulda left at 2:00. Dangit. Now I can't go back. I shoulda got the 24." After several minutes of this -- I'm not kidding, I counted it! -- Dangit realized he wasn't getting any sympathy, so he tried a different tactic.
"Lookit!" he commanded. "Look at it. Look at what it says."
"Yes, I see." She talked to him like he was the one-year-old.
"Look at what it says. It says Mackinac Island."
My jaw dropped when I heard Dangit pronounce the name correctly. Then, in case his wife forgot where she had spent the entire weekend, he repeated himself. "It says Mackinac Island on it."
I wanted to turn around and shout: "Really? You found a clothing item that has 'Mackinac Island' on it? That's so odd, because a large tourist trap like this rarely has anything with its name on it. I'm absolutely stunned that baby jumpers sold on Mackinac Island aren't emblazoned with large red letters that say Burp Holler, Oregon! I mean, what are the odds?!"
But I didn't. I could only listen and give my wife looks that said, "Can you believe this guy? This is better than television!"
As the ferry pulled away, Dangit only got madder and madder.
"I told you we shoulda left at 2:00. Dangit! I shoulda got the 24. It was only $4.95, but it just looked huge!"
As Dangit raved on about what he shoulda done, I pulled out my PDA and took notes for this column. I tapped furiously on the pad to keep up with every "dangit" and "I shoulda got the 24" he uttered.
His voice was finally muffled as the engines reached their peak RPMs and we raced across Lake Huron, but I could make out bits of the one-sided tirade.
"Stand him up. Let's see it. Stand him up. It'll fit him. Stand him up and lookit. Stand him up," Dangit said during one of the quieter moments.
But as we approached the dock, Dangit finally realized his wife had not paid attention to one second of his ranting since we left the island.
I heard "Are you listening to me?" as the engines geared down. "Are you listening to me? Hey, are you listening to me?"
"Yes, all 93 of us are listening to you! Here's five dollars, now shut up!" I wanted to shout. My wife placed a calming hand on my arm.
After we got in the car, I asked my wife if she wanted to have lunch at our favorite pizza place before we drove home.
"No!" she nearly shouted. "Dangit and his wife said they're going there."
We decided against pizza, and went somewhere else. The last thing we wanted to hear all through lunch was "Dangit. I shoulda got the pepperoni."