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I HAVE JUST said goodbye to my oars. They went with my dinghy, which went with my boat. I was very fond of my oars, even though they weren’t the oars I was supposed to have.
I found them 12 years ago in a thrift store in Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island, a matched pair of 6-foot 6-inch wooden oars sticking up out of a barrel of assorted paddles and odd pieces of wood. They wanted $30 for the pair, or $15 apiece.
I, too, shifted into thrift mode and offered the lady $20 for the pair. She was greatly offended. “We don’t haggle over prices,” she said. “We are a non-profit. We work for charity.” Suitably chastened, I slunk away.
But that night the devil visited me in my sleep. “Why not buy just one oar?” he said. “That will destroy the value of the matched pair. Then the remaining one will be worth practically nothing. Nobody ever buys just one oar. They will have to drop its price to $5 to get rid of it.”
That cunning devil. What a splendid idea.
So I went back, paid $15 for one oar with a convincing show of doing my bit for the homeless, and settled back to wait.
It was winter and I could afford to wait. Every week I went back to check the lone thrift store oar. And every week the lady watched me check the price tag. It stayed at $15. She looked very smug. But time was on my side. I could wait.
Christmas would have been a charitable time for the lady to reduce the price but she didn’t take the opportunity, and we were still at stalemate halfway into spring when the unbelievable happened. Some idiot bought the oar. Some ignorant moronic fool paid the full $15 for MY oar, the remaining half of MY matched pair.
“The oar’s gone,” I said to the lady in shocked disbelief.
Her lips turned up at the corners. “Man bought it,” she said with just a hint of triumph. “Full price.”
I bit my tongue.
I was forced to buy another oar, an oar that didn’t match the one I had already bought, and I was forced to pay $15. So, after everything, I ended up paying the full $30 for a mismatched pair.
Oh, we got on well enough over the years, those oars and I. They rowed well enough for who it was for. But I never once set foot in my dinghy without seeing the smug face of the lady who made such a fool of me, the lady who won the thrift store oar war.
The true test of a brilliant theory is what first is thought to be wrong is later shown to be obvious.
— Assar Lindbeck
Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #45
Wind-driven currents. A wind blowing steadily from one direction for 12 hours or more creates a surface current with a drift of about 2 percent of the wind’s average speed.
The greatest area of unemployment in the world today is the region just north of the ear.