November 28, 2010

Mobile hair factories

ANYONE WHO HAS LIVED ON A BOAT for any length of time knows about hair. Hair is everywhere, inside and out. It’s all over the saloon floor. It gets stuck in your toes as you walk. Long strands of hair drape themselves with casual cockiness over your saucepans and newly washed plates in the galley. You’ll find it on faucets, mirrors, the toilet seat, in the bilge, everywhere. Hair is even a safety issue because it clogs drains and bilge pumps, and it never seems to rot or fade away into dust.

Let’s face it, people are mobile hair factories. The stuff just keeps growing, and as fast as it grows it falls out. Frankly, I have never understood why humans grow hair in the first place. It must be a manufacturing defect. I mean, what use is it? Why do we have pubic hair, for instance? Surely our pubes can survive well enough without hair? What use is underarm hair? It’s hot and sweaty enough already under there. Why do I have hair on the back of my knuckles, for goodness’ sake? Yes, I can understand the need for hair on the head to prevent sunburn, but how do you account for the fact that as we age (and need even more sunburn protection) the damned hair falls off our heads and starts growing out of our ears and nostrils. Whaaat?

I can remember looking at the compass one dark night in mid-ocean and thinking I was hallucinating. It was a domed compass, saltwater-damp and glowing faint red, but with puzzling streaks all over, so that the white lubber line looked like a jagged thunderbolt. I ran a finger over it and the streaks gathered together into a thick string of hair.

And then, when I first got my Cape Dory 27, she had a beautiful cockpit grating made of teak. It was first-class workmanship, a wonderful piece of furniture, and probably worth as much as many boats. But the first time I lifted it up (because the cockpit drains didn’t seem to be working fast enough) I was astonished at what was trapped underneath. The bottom of each little hole was matted with clumps of hair — hair that had trapped and nurtured foul-smelling globs of gelatinous goo of such a virulent nature that it almost snarled at me.

So if I had my way (at least until there is a general recall of humans to redress our tonsorial defect) anyone coming aboard a boat of mine would either have to wear a hairnet or be shaved all over. Long hair, short hair, all gone, if you please. Some supporters of hirsuteness may well believe that hair has its place, but that place isn’t on any boat of mine.

Today’s Thought
Interest in hair today has grown to the proportions of a fetish. Think of the many loving ways in which advertisements refer to scalp hair—satiny, glowing, shimmering, breathing, living. Living, indeed! It is as dead as rope.
— Dr. William Montagna, Brown University

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #126
The jumping light. Most people who have sailed at night have experienced the phenomenon of a fixed or flashing point of light that appears to jump around the horizon. Psychologists call it the autokinetic illusion. After we stare fixedly at one point for too long, the light reappears some distance left or right of where we expect it. Some say it comes about through imperceptible movements or strain in the eye muscles. The rest of us just accept it as a fact of life afloat, and sweep our eyes from side to side while waiting for the light to appear again.

“And how’s the patient this morning, nurse?”
“Much better, doctor. He tried to blow the foam off his medicine.”

1 comment:

Annie said...

You must really love sesame seeds on bread! :-)