December 4, 2008

When you can't beat 'em . . .

OLD WOTISNAME down the row from me was in a fine old rage yesterday. He had just heard about the cruise ship that was attacked by pirates — the cruise ship that got away.

I'm sure you remember the incident in the Gulf of Aden the other day when the 30,000-ton Oceana Nautica was fired on by Somali pirates in two speedboats. What got O.W. all riled up was the news that the Nautica actually anticipated an attack. Before she left port, passengers were informed of the ship's two secret weapons against piracy: high-pressure water hoses and a long-range acoustic device that blasts a painful wave of sound toward attackers.

Now, it's an open secret on our dock that O.W. has been working on an acoustic blaster for months. It all started when he slipped and fell on his concrete deck one day. The deck was generously spattered with guano from the seagulls, crows, and cormorants that perch in his tangled rigging. He wasn't badly hurt, but O.W. decided that the slippery poop had to go. So the birds had to go, too.

In his spare moments, when he wasn't chipping rust off his chainplates, he experimented with one of those little aerosol cans that people use for fog horns. Remembering how he could make a loud screech by blowing on a piece of grass held between his thumbs, O.W. modified his fog horn with a small piece of plastic sheeting.

To everyone's surprise, when he aimed it at a gull perched on the spreaders, and pushed the button, no noise came out. But the startled gull leaped into the air as if it had been bitten on the backside. At the same time, everyone within 50 yards experienced a sharp pain in the ear.

O.W. was beside himself with excitement. "I've invented the acoustic gun," he shouted, "I'm gonna make a fortune."

He was thinking, of course, that small cruising sailboats could use this surprise weapon to ward off pirates. But his enthusiasm grew daily as reports came in of daring attacks on big tankers, cruise ships, and freighters in the Gulf of Aden. "They all need my acoustic gun," he declared.

But yesterday he learned that the Nautica already had a long-range acoustic device. "They stole my idea," he raged. "I'm gonna sue."

I was about to tell him that the Nautica didn't escape the pirates because of their ghetto blaster. The Nautica escaped because the captain revved up the engines, and the pirates couldn't keep up. But before I could get a word out, a crafty look spread slowly over O.W's face.

"It doesn't matter," he said, grinning widely.

"What doesn't matter?" I asked.

"About the acoustic gun. I have a better idea."

"What's that?"

"I'm gonna strike a deal with the pirates. Sell them a secret counter weapon."

"What's that?"

"Earplugs," he said. "And maybe waterproof jackets also."

Today's Thought
If the thief has no opportunity, he thinks himself honorable. —The Talmud.

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.
--Charles Synge Christopher Bowen

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