First Person Singular

(Paul Morse)
Sunday, August 24, 2008

THE LONGEST I'VE EVER WORKED in anything close to a desk job was three months at a Mail Boxes Etc. I was miserable. I need to be near the water. When you're working on the water, you don't wake up in the morning with that immediate thought of "Oh, crap." You don't lay there thinking about how bad your commute is going to be. Drivers here are maniacs. They're even maniacs on the water, especially all these weekend warriors, coming up to watch the fireworks, acting like they know how to captain a ship. There are some real boneheads out there, but it's better than on the pavement.

I met my wife when we were both stationed at a surf boat station in Washington state. She was out there right next to me all day, doing rescues, sanding and painting. She's cooped up in a climate-controlled computer room now, still with the Coast Guard. I can never remember what her exact title is. She got tired of telling me, so she gave me her business card. There's, like, five words in her title. I've never had a business card. If I did, it would just say "captain."

I drive the boat back and forth every day between Old Town and National Harbor. It does get a little old, just a straight line, with commuters on board. I don't know why, but I've always worked near people on vacation. People leave their brains at home when they're on vacation. They ask the silliest of questions. In Key West, when we were doing sunset tours, every day someone would ask: "How many sunset tours do you do a day?" Here, when I'm backing up the boat, someone will ask: "Are we going to go backwards all the way to National Harbor?" Sometimes, I want to scream at them: "Look up! Don't just sit there on your cellphones, talking."

When I go on vacation, I refuse to go on a tour. I don't want to sit on a bus and have some guy tell me why some corner is important. I want to get lost. My wife and I, we're like gypsies. We're anywhere more than two years, and we get antsy, start asking each other, "Where do you want to go next?" People are always going to want to go on a boat, and boats can't pilot themselves yet. At least, not outside of Disney World.

Interview by Amanda Long

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