I’ve got a terrible cold, and a fever the last couple of day days, so no new T.I.L.T. this week. I’m really sorry. But I wish you a happy orthodox Easter, and to make up for it I’m giving you one of my best-of-T.I.L.T.s, a T.I.L.T. flashback from 2007. Hope you enjoy it – One Size Does Not Fit All.

. . .  my patently popular paternal-half and I decided to have some father and son bonding time by having a boys’ day out: we went white-water river rafting. The river was the Rio Grande where not only the rapids are big, but so are the customers . . .

There we were, all loaded up in a van with three French ladies and a nice young local couple obviously in love, thinking we were all ready to go on our rapid adventure with Los Rios River Runners, when up waddled one of the most obese men you never wanted to see in a pair of swim trunks . . .

He huffed and he puffed and he climbed his way in . . . The shocks squeaked and the springs sprang, and the young couple squeezed themselves together to make room for the man now taking up more than his fair share of the van.

I thought to myself, “This man is going to perch on the edge of a raft?” My mind tried to get around the sheer physics of the prospect . . . I mean, if you were to take, say, a Frisbee, turn it over, put a few eggs in it, and float it on some water, what do you think is going to happen when you add a bowling ball?

And then I thought, “God, I hope he’s not in my raft . . .”

When will I ever learn to stop thinking such things?

Well, after we got up river and unloaded the van and extracted the squashed young couple, I noticed that our guides were preparing two large rafts and a smaller one-man craft called a ‘Fun-Yak’. A Fun-Yak is like a kayak, except it’s more fun. Maybe this is because unlike a kayak it’s inflatable and much less likely to capsize . . . if you’re not a bowling ball of course.

I was very relieved to see the super-sized man, who, for legal reasons, I will simply refer to as “Moby”, hovering over the Fun-Yak salivating with anticipation . . . Yes! Not in my raft after all! Whew!

I could only imagine what that poor Fun-Yak was thinking . . . “I hate sumo wrestling!”

Before we could proceed on our merry way down the river, we received the safety lecture from our funner-than-fun-yak guide, Super Sophia a.k.a. Grand Master of the Rio Grande.

The safety lecture basically consists of three rules:

  1. Stay in the raft.
  2. Stay in the raft.
  3. Stay in the raft.

Complicated, isn’t it?

Maybe airlines ought to adopt this style of safety lecture:

“In case of emergency, get out of the plane, get OUT of the PLANE, GET OUT OF THE PLANE!!!”

Hey, that would get my attention.

Anyway. After the all-important safety lecture, we put on our all-important life vests. And, well, apparently one size does not fit all . . .

Poor Moby, he tried on this one and that one and, well, they were all the same size: way too small.

Super Sophia, not batting an eye and with a constant smile, went over to him like a mother hen to a lost chick, loosened all the straps as far as they would go and managed to get him buckled into his life-saving device. Unfortunately, this life-saving device almost killed Moby as he scrunched down onto his whimpering Fun-Yak. See, when Moby sat down, his already bigger-than-Buddha belly bulged out even more, pushing his life vest upwards into his throat and up to his eyes, essentially strangling him. He flailed about trying to undo the vest at the neck but his arms were also pushed up and stuck out like a stuffed bear, so he could barely reach his neck – gasp!

Super Sophia back to the rescue: she pulled down the vest, adjusted it again so he could breathe, and we set off . . .

The French ladies were in the raft with the other guide named “Stay-In-The-Raft-Or-You’re-Dead” Ed, whilst the young couple, my father and I were happily rafting with Super Sophia. The reason we were rafting so happily is because Super Sophia kept singing a catchy tune which goes like this: “We are happy with rafting, happy with rafting, happy with rafting . . .”

I have the sneaking suspicion it was written by the same person who wrote the safety lecture . . . hmmm.

Meanwhile, back in Melville-land, Moby was anything but happy with Fun-Yaking . . . He was being strangled again, and couldn’t see, and what was worse, he couldn’t keep his legs in the raft, because quote, “the bottom of the boat keeps pushing my ass out!”

The fact that his ass was probably pushing out the bottom of the boat never seemed to cross his mind. According to Moby, the equipment was “poorly designed”.

Right . . .

Well, at the first set of somewhat challenging rapids, the Fun-Yak finally had some fun of its own and yacked up Moby to the Rio Grande – I swear the river seemed to rise . . .

Anyway, Super Sophia to the rescue again!

She was the epitome of patience and never lost her sense of good-will helping Moby to try and have a good time. But she was also a Pro and told him that she couldn’t let him go down the rest of the river in the Fun-Yak because it would simply be too dangerous. And so before I could say Holy Rio Grande, Fatman, the young couple were switched over to join the French ladies and, yup, my father and I got Moby . . .

And this was after lunch where Moby had added two giant sandwiches into his giant load . . .

Yeah, the horror, the horror . . . !

You know, I don’t want to come off sounding like I have something against people who are – how can I put this politely? – gravitationally challenged? I was super-sized myself for most of my youth. I actually had a lot of empathy for poor Moby when he couldn’t get his life vest to close because I’ve had my own embarrassing clothing disasters. I’ve blown the ass out of more than one pair of pants, thank you very much.

But what really got me about Moby was that he blamed his difficulties on everything but himself. And what was really surprising was that he claimed to have been Fun-Yaking and rafting all over the States and knew everything about every river. Which made absolutely no sense because he couldn’t even figure out how to get into the raft when he joined our crew. It’s not complicated. You sit on the side, you lift your leg over and . . . oh right, that’s where it got complicated for Moby: lifting his leg. He tried this and promptly fell over into the raft spread-eagle, flailing like an upside-down tortoise.

This time it took more than just Super Sophia to save him and we helped get him into a somewhat upright position so we could set off again . . .

Suddenly our carefree adventure seemed earnest as I was sure my bowling ball theory would soon send us to certain doom. We rode the rocky rapids, my father and I paddling our little hearts out, Moby clinging to the raft for dear life, all the while passing other rafts stranded on rocks and upturned Fun-Yaks left and right. And amazingly, Super Sophia proved that with superior skill, yes, you can float a bowling ball on a Frisbee and not lose any eggs – miraculous!

At the end of the trip there was a slow, lazy part of the river where we could get out of the raft and swim alongside. I did this and was dreamily floating along like a baby until the tsunami . . .

Yes, suddenly there was Moby floating alongside me, his belly riding higher above the water than his life vest. And the whole thing seemed really ironic to me. Does a man of Moby’s stature actually need a life vest? Seems to me like he had one built in? Hmmm.

Anyway, thanks to Super Sophia, we successfully survived the day. We were definitely “happy with rafting” because we had managed to “stay in the boat”. Moby even said he had learned a “thing or two”. He didn’t elaborate what that was but I can only hope it had something to do with physics . . .

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *