Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: Sailing to My Doom

Russ Pitts | 8 Sep 2008 21:00
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I remember it was covered with rust. Which, considering it spent its days bobbing up and down in the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean, I should have expected, but I was surprised nonetheless. I'd never seen a deep water buoy close enough to touch it, much less crash into it, wreck my boat and become stranded, perhaps clinging to it with one hand while punching sharks in the eyes to survive long enough for the Coast Guard to come (they have sharks in North Carolina, don't they?) so it just hadn't ever come up.

Now, here I was, within a stone's throw of the thing as it rode up and down the gentle crests of the waves, their glass placidity belying the tempestuous current beneath their surface. It was smaller than I expected, and, as I've mentioned, covered with rust. I tried to remember when I'd gotten my last tetanus booster. It was coming nearer. Or rather, I was coming nearer to it. And there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. This was the moment I realized videogames had finally done me a disservice.

A few weeks ago I took some time off to go to the coast, lay in the sun reading a book, drink mojitos in my hotel room, watch the waves crash into then beach and, if I was lucky, sail a boat. I'm no pro sailor by any means, but I can handle a small sailing vessel. That I don't do it more often is a function of the availability of free time more than anything. If I had my druthers, and a small personal fortune, I'd be out sailing every day.

In spite of my passion, with my meager sailing experience any man would have been a fool to rent me a boat to sail into the Atlantic. There happened to be one such fool hawking boats right outside my hotel. Within hours of checking in, I was out on the waves, clipping along with the increasing, storm-driven wind. It was windier that day than it had been all year, the sailboat guy told me, a sure sign a storm was coming. But the weather looked fine for now, so he took my money and I, his boat. Which of us was the more foolish is up for debate.

A lifetime of playing videogames has made me more or less impervious to the suggestion I should read the frakking directions. Today's games are the worst. In most modern games you don't need to even crack the manual to figure out the rules; instead, the game usually spends half of its first ten hours holding your hand like a child, teaching you which button to press to make your dude do what. And if you screw up, what the hell, that's what save points are for.

I'm a horrible student. Most of everything I've ever learned, I've learned from doing, not from studying. I have a nasty habit of not waiting around to ask for directions before plunging head first into whatever the problem may be, and for biting off slightly more than I can chew. This is part of the downside of having spent my youth dallying in multiple career paths; there isn't much I haven't had at least some experience with, sailing included. And yet, in the back of my mind, I know that if I focused a bit more, applied myself to learning and, above all else, listened, I'd be a bit more skilled at a few more things. But, as with games, I've barely mastered one before diving into the next. Videogames may not be Her Satanic Majesty's all-in-one force of societal ill, but they do, at the very least, enable bad students.

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