Row — True Story

20+ years ago my mental chandelier had blown a few bulbs.  In other words things were looking pretty dim. A friend of mine gave me some advice. He said imagine you’re sitting in a rowboat. Next to you is God. You’re sitting there wondering where you’re going.  God looks at you and says, “Let’s get this baby moving. Now you can row or you can steer. But there’s one thing you should know — God don’t row.”

I thought about his advice and I’ve been rowing ever since. But there are plenty of times when I would forget. So I decided I needed something that would remind me every day. On a freezing winter February day I left my office and walked up to Central Park.  It was mid-afternoon and because it was so cold I found myself alone in the park.The walking paths were empty other than the squirrels looking for nuts or some sort of food. I saw one squirrel noshing on a frozen piece of bagel.  Smart squirrel.

Reaching the 72nd Street area of the park I went over to the Central Park boathouse where a restaurant borders the small man-made lake. In warmer times rowboats drift across it. That day the lake was empty except for a few ducks and pigeons who were walking on the frozen surface.

I walked into the restaurant and because it was the time between lunch and dinner there was nobody around except for the staff who were preparing for the nighttime service.  A very pretty young lady who I took to be the hostess came up to me and smiled brightly. “Yes sir? May I help you? I’m afraid we’re not seating diners right now.”

I looked at her bright happy face and said, “I’m not here to eat. Mmmm…I know that you have the boats put away for the winter.”  “That’s right,” she said. I said, “Well, to be perfectly honest…I’m looking for an oar.”

Her smile evaporated. “A what?”, she said.

Maybe it was the cold or my bundled up appearance or the fact that I had just walked in and not been dropped off by a cab or car and it was freezing outside but she began to back away slowly.

“An oar!  I really need an oar.”, I repeated.

She picked up the phone on the hostess stand and quickly punched in a 3-digit number.

Keeping her eyes on me she said into the phone. “Tony, I think you better come up front. There’s a guy here and he’s looking for a whore!”

I panicked and said, “Not whore. Oar!”

Maybe my frozen lips were making me talk funny.  She repeated into the phone, “Yeah, that’s right, a whore!”

Tony appeared. Big guy. Thought he was going to toss me out after beating me to a pulp.

But it all worked out. He actually gave me an oar from the boathouse. For free. I still have it and look at it every day as a reminder of the advice I got 20+ years ago.

True story.

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About nhbrownlee

Advertising copywriter, Creative Director and state of New York college professor. I love true stories. Who doesn't?
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