Saturday, December 23, 2006
Moderate Drinking Can Be Healthful
Lots of years ago a group from my company had a meeting at the reseach facility of a large chemical arm of a larger petroleum company. Because I have a poor memory, much of the preliminary details of this story may be hazy, but my memory of the high point is "like yesterday"! As I recall, the research buildings we were meeting in were in or near Oakland, California. Evening approached and our hosts announced that they wished to take us to dinner in a "quaint and arty" town on the other side of San Francisco Bay. I think the name of the town was Sausalito or some such spelling. Those of you familiar with the area may know the name of the restaurant. It is quite classy (read: expensive) and overlooks the bay. Four car loads of the cream of the research staffs of two corporations piled into four cars and set off around the north of the bay to reach Sausalito (sp?).
Traffic caused the four cars to get separated, but we saw the car in front of us pull off the road and flag us down. One of their passengers owned a cabin cruiser which was docked just a little way up the road. Would any of us like to cross San Franciso Bay in a boat? Six or seven of us said "sure". The cars drove off and left us at a marina with the captain. The marina was cozily protected by land and getties and this seemed to be a fun thing to do. I owned a boat on the east coast and knew a little about boating. So I became slightly nervous when the boat owner hopped on board, unlocked the cabin and started the engine. I much prefer to hear the exhaust fan in the engine compartment running for a few minutes before the engine is started. We rounded the getty and everyone aboard knew we were in trouble. We hadn't expected a tempest.
The wind was violent and combined with a wicked tide to create awesome waves. Instead of quickly turning to return to the marina (as I would have done), our fearless captain headed across the bay. The prop would come out of the water and race with a whine. Waves were coming over us. I stood by the door and slammed it when the water started in and opened it when it receded. I didn't want to get trapped inside if we went over. Life jackets were passed around along with questions of how anyone could survive in that sea. We rocked and we rolled and the engine kept stalling. The look on the white and perspiring face of our pilot improved no one's confidence. We could see the Coast Guard Station in front of us and just prayed that they were watching us. Finally, the captain's grinding of the starter couldn't get the engine to catch. Dead in the water, as each wave hit us we were turned more nearly broadside to them. Each assault of water rolled us closer to going over. At the last second the engine started again and turned us back into the waves. At last, the captain got the idea of turning and backing down on the engine speed to keep the prop in the water. When we reached the lee of land we felt cold, wet, and battered. And scared. We clung to the lee of land and made it to Sausalito.
The water in our shoes squished with each step into the restaurant. We dripped on the rug and while our table was prepared we were grateful to sit side by side on a long bench in the lobby. A classy lady with a "veddy" British accent went down the line taking drink orders. I was first in line and as she returned with a large tray of drink, I got mine first. She came back up the line after serving eveyone. I held out my empty perfect Manhattan glass and asked for another. She replied, "Oh sir, I think you have broken the record."
After dinner I, and most of the rest, returned by car, thank you.