November 20, 2012

Ideas for a protest committee

I WAS JUST THINKING to myself “Thank goodness it’s Thanksgiving. Nobody wants to read a column during Thankgiving.  They’re all too busy having lots of food and fun.  So I don’t have to write a column. Whoopee.”

But then I realized, from long and bitter experience, that there’s always some whiner lying on the couch who’ll be planning to read the column on an iPad propped up on his extended stomach after Thanksgiving lunch.

Well, dang!

It sort of reminds me of all the whining that went on a few days back, after the computers running the Virtual Vendee Globe crashed for more than four hours. Lots of poor hapless souls engaged in cut-throat rivalry with fellow competitors nearly went crazy as their boats plowed on through the North Atlantic on their own, with no-one at the helm.  Some ran aground and flailed around hopelessly. Others fell into irons as the wind direction changed.  Almost all were adversely affected in some way or another as their boats rushed along out of control.  Too many, I fear, resorted to hard liquor and wrote nasty complaints to the game organizers.

I must confess that I was one of those who complained.  I had worked my brain to the bone day and night for more than a week to bring my boat up to about 20,000th position out of 300,000 starters.  But when I was eventually able to rejoin the game, after someone gave the computers some smelling salts, I found to my astonishment that I was now ranked about 4,500. 

I made the mistake of gloating to my wife about it.  “You should just let the darned boat sail itself,” she remarked.  “It seems to go much better when you’re not interfering.”  Interfering, she said, honestly. Jeez, that hurt.

But all the same, she may have a point. Now that I’m at the helm again we’ve fallen back to 60,000 and something.  And we’re continuing to lose places steadily.

But what I was going to say was that the organizers felt really guilty about the computer crashes (yes, more than one).  They formed a Protest Committee. They had a formal hearing and decided after much sober debate that there was nothing they could do that would be fair to all entrants. But the guilt still gnawed at them. So they decided on a decidedly Gallic course of action that basically meant fining themselves. They vowed to make a contribution to charity.

They didn’t mention how much they decided to give, or to whom.  In any case, I think it was a wrong move.  Nobody taking part in the race benefits from this, unless by chance they belong to the Homeless Ex-Mariners’ Benevolent Society.  No, what the Protest Committee should have done was to set up more prizes.  Doesn’t charity begin at home, after all? As far as I know, there’s only one prize at the moment for the overall winner, and that’s a watch said to be worth about 1,600 euros.

There could be lots more prizes.  First boat to the equator. First to go aground. First to Cape Horn. Last one to finish before the cut-off time. And so on.

I don’t suppose it will happen. The race organizers don’t read this column, you know. They’re French.  I’m tempted to say that explains everything, but I won’t. I don’t want to antagonize them. I’m calmly waiting for the next computer crash to get me back in front again, out through the doldrums and heading helter skelter through the south-east trades for St. Helena.  It probably won’t be long.   

Today’s Thought
Luck, mere luck, may make even madness wisdom.
— Douglas Jerrold,  Jerrold’s Wit: Luck

Happy Thanksgiving
I’D LIKE TO THANK all of you ( well, both of you, actually ) for reading this column so faithfully week after week.  We’ve notched up more than a quarter million page views now, which must mean some people read the same pages over and over an awful lot of times.

But have a wonderful Thanksgiving anyway.  I wish you all that’s best and tastiest.

“Dad, why did you say the girls at the health club are all ugly?”
“I didn't say they were ugly. I said they held a beauty contest there the other day and nobody won.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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